Let RI Vote Act
A 30-member coalition, led in part by Common Cause Rhode Island, helped pass the Let RI Vote Act, the largest expansion of access to the ballot in a generation. The bill codified many of the temporary measures put in place for the pandemic, creating a system where voters can choose how to cast their ballot; by mail, early in person, or on Election Day.
Prison gerrymandering win
After a decade of advocacy by Common Cause Rhode Island and allies, a portion of the population of the Adult Correctional Institution counted in the 2020 Census was reassigned to the actual residences, partially ending the practice of prison gerrymandering in Rhode Island.
Starting in 2018, Common Cause Rhode Island identified a successful census as a strategic priority. Working with the City of Central Falls we hosted the only community-based public outreach event during the 2018 Census End-to-End Test. In 2019 we successfully lobbied for creation of the first-ever statewide Complete Count Committee along with an accompanying fiscal appropriation. In 2020 we helped lead the outreach effort resulting in Rhode Island ultimately retaining its additional seat in Congress.
Common Cause Rhode Island v. Republican National Committee
At the height of the pandemic Common Cause Rhode Island, along with the League of Women Voters of Rhode Island and two individual plaintiffs, sued state officials to waive requirements to vote by mail that would endanger the health of eligible voters. The case quickly made it to the U.S. Supreme Court where we prevailed and hundreds of thousands of Rhode Islanders were able to vote safely.
Rhode Island was long a leader in using hand-marked paper ballots for our elections, but was one of a handful of states that did not audit election results in any way. In 2017 Common Cause Rhode Island passed legislation making ours only the second state to require statewide risk-limiting audits, the “gold standard” of election audits. In 2019 we led an implementation group of auditing experts that resulted in full implementation of our groundbreaking audits in 2020.
Automatic Voter Registration
Rhode Island Becomes Ninth State to Adopt Automatic Voter Registration
We supported legislation for automatic and portable voter registration, which automatically registers eligible citizens to vote when they interact with the Division of Motor Vehicles, unless they decline. Building off the success of online voter registration, Rhode Island can use technology to both increase participation of qualified voters and keep the registration rolls cleaner. Automatic voter registration is a bipartisan approach to registering eligible voters that will save money, and increase accuracy of the rolls and voter participation.
It passed with overwhelming support from both chambers in the Rhode Island Legislature.
Yes on 2: Restoring Ethics Commission Oversight over the General Assembly
Holding All Elected Officials Accountable
Previously, the Rhode Island Ethics Commission could not investigate or prosecute legislators for actions pertaining to their legislative activities. This inability of the Ethics Commission to investigate or prosecute was upheld during a court case. The Supreme Court noted that the constitution could be changed to grant such an ability. Question 2 provided the Ethics Commission with the authority to investigate and prosecute legislative activities. Question 2 passed with 78.11% of the vote, and restored the full jurisdiction of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission over members of the General Assembly.
Online Voter Registration
In 2016, legislation was enacted to create a system for online voter registration in Rhode Island and to join the Electronic Registration Information Clearinghouse (ERIC). Eligible voters in Rhode Island can now update their voter information or register to vote online without going into an office or mailing forms.
Common Cause Rhode Island negotiated the first People’s Pledge to reduce outside spending during the Democratic primary for governor. The three major candidates for governor in the 2014 Rhode Island Democratic primary signs on, and we called on Republican candidates to take a similar pledge for their primary. The pledge committed each candidate to make charitable contributions to offset half of any funds spent on their behalf by outside groups.Learn more
Transparency in Political Spending Act
In the wake of 2010’s Citizens United decision Common Cause Rhode Island led an effort to overhaul our campaign finance disclosure laws for so-called “independent expenditures.” The Transparency in Political Spending Act made Rhode Island one of the first states to fight dark money by requiring disclosure of the underlying source of funding for political ads and requires that names of the top donors appear on the ads themselves.
Separation of Powers
Separation of powers established, ending long-standing legislative control of executive boards
Common Cause Rhode Island was among the first to identify the problem created by legislators sitting on the dozens of boards and commissions in our state. This dual office-holding created numerous conflicts of interest and defied the basic model of government adopted by our federal government and the other 49 states. In the 1990s, it became our goal to put separation of powers in our state constitution. Common Cause Rhode Island’s members played a crucial role in the historic 2004 vote that amended the state constitution in four critical ways.Read more
Established an open system for merit selection of state judges.
Legislative Branch Reform
Modernized and downsized the General Assembly.
Executive Branch Reform
Strengthened the executive branch through four-year terms for statewide general officers.
Created one of the strongest ethics commissions in the nation.