Voters can expect some changes at primary polls

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When Cranston voters head to the polls on Wednesday, Sept. 12 for the primary, they will be greeted by new technology in use to check voters in, among other changes for the 2018 elections.

Electronic poll pads will be used statewide for the first time this year, after successful trial runs over the last two years in communities across Rhode Island, including several Cranston precincts in 2016. The e-poll pads – which are secure iPads with special software installed – will replace the hefty, cumbersome paper poll books that were used in the past to check in voters at the polling place, according to Nick Lima, registrar for the Cranston Board of Canvassers.

Lima said the e-poll pads are an initiative from the Secretary of State and Board of Elections that is being deployed to streamline the check-in of voters on Election Day. While in past years voters would line up alphabetically, Lima said this year voters will form one line, and will be called to the next available pair of poll workers when checking in. Overall, he said the check-in process will be significantly faster.

“The e-poll pads allow voters to scan a Rhode Island drivers’ license or state ID, so voters can be checked in in a matter of seconds,” Lima said. “Voters with other forms of ID, such as a college ID or passport, can likewise quickly be looked up by poll workers in the electronic system. Accordingly, we want voters to be aware of the quick check-in process and that they no longer need to look for alphabetical lines when arriving to vote.”

Lima added that registered voters who do not have a photo ID will not be turned away, and always have the right to vote a provisional ballot. Provisional ballots are reviewed and counted by the Board of Canvassers if the signature on the ballot application matches the voter’s registration card on file.

Unlike in past primary elections where precincts have been consolidated, Lima said the Cranston Canvassing Department made a determination to open all 30 polling places in the city, both for the convenience of voters and to minimize voter confusion. All polling locations will be the same for both the Primary and General Elections.

“Only one polling place changed physical locations between 2016 and 2018,” Lima said. “Earlier this year we notified voters in the district that the Cranston Senior Enrichment Center polling place has been moved to the William R. Dutemple Elementary School, located at 32 Garden St.”

That polling precinct – 0704 – handles about 550 of the city’s approximately 57,000 registered voters. Lima said voters at the Dutemple School would enter via the cafeteria entrance off of Orchard St. All other polling places in the city are the same as they were for the last city election, in November 2016. All polling places open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. on Sept. 12, and any voters who are in line at 8:00 p.m. will be allowed to vote.

Voters can go online to a newly revamped state website – vote.ri.gov – to find their polling place, view a sample ballot, or update their voter information. Although the deadline to update voter information for the primary has already passed, the General Election registration deadline isn’t until Oct. 7, and updates will be processed after the primary is concluded.

Voters who are unaffiliated will choose a party to vote in when checking in with poll workers, and have the option to complete a disaffiliation form at the polls after voting on Election Day.

Among other changes, the primary is being held on a Wednesday this year due to a state law that provides for primaries to be held the day after a religious holiday, marking the first time in 30 years the calendar has worked out that way.

Lima said the Canvassing Department is continuing to hire poll workers for the 2018 elections, who must attend a training class and are paid between $175 and $200 for each election they work. Interested registered voters can call the office at 780-3127 to apply.

Board of Canvassers Chairman Randy Jackvony said his board and the canvassing office staff have put in a significant amount of time getting things ready for the upcoming election.

“Our staff has been hard at work for months preparing in every way possible for the primary election to ensure that voters have a fair, orderly, and accurate election process in our city,” said Jackvony. “Our number one priority is to the voters to guarantee the election properly reflects the will of the people.”

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