Rhode Island Expands Voter Access as Other States Pass Anti-Voting Laws

Providence, RI – The Rhode Island House of Representatives passed the Let RI Vote Act (H 7100) today by a vote of 52-13.

“This is a major milestone in the history of voting rights in Rhode Island,” said Marcela Betancur, spokesperson for the Let RI Vote Campaign and Executive Director of the Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University. “Now Rhode Island voters will have better access to the ballot.”

The Let RI Vote Act codifies several of the changes made during the 2020 elections, including removing the requirement that mail ballots be accompanied by the signatures of two witnesses or a notary public and requiring all municipalities to provide secure mail ballot drop boxes. Voters will no longer be required to provide an excuse if they choose to vote early or by mail. It also requires the state create a secure online mail ballot application system, conduct more frequent voter roll cleanup, provide a multilingual voter hotline, and shorten the deadline for voters to request a braille ballot, among other improvements.

Rhode Island is expanding voters’ access to ballots even as many other states are passing anti-voter bills. Last year, at least 19 states passed laws restricting access to voting – and 40 states have legislation pending now that would restrict voter access or interfere with election administration.

On April 26, the Rhode Island Senate passed the bill (S 2007) by a vote of 31-6. Today’s House passage is the last major step for the legislation, as it is expected to become law in the coming weeks after the bills pass in concurrence and are signed by the Governor.

The Let RI Vote Act Campaign is supported by a coalition of more than 40 community organizations including voting rights, women’s rights, civic, and labor organizations. In the last five months, Rhode Islanders have sent more than 30,000 letters to legislators in support of the Let RI Vote Act.

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Representatives of partner organizations of the “Let RI Vote” campaign provided the following statements:

John Marion, Executive Director of Common Cause Rhode Island:
“Passage of t
he Let RI Vote Act is a watershed moment for voting rights in Rhode Island. This is the culmination of years of hard work by dozens of organizations and thousands of Rhode Islanders. All eligible Rhode Islanders, including those who have been historically marginalized, now enjoy greater access to the ballot whether in-person on Election Day, during the early voting period, or voting by mail.”

Rhode Island AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Patrick Crowley:
“Today is a great day for democracy in Rhode Island. Increasing voting access with the provisions of the the Let RI Vote Act is a pro-worker cause. From the Dorr Rebellion to the Suffragettes and the Civil Rights movement, the labor movement will always fight for the right to vote in Rhode Island and across the globe.”

NEA Rhode Island President Lawrence Purtill:
“Like an honest and accurate public education, expanded access to voting is foundational to society and critical to our democracy. Passage of H7100A is a huge step forward in improving and modernizing voting in the Ocean State and our thanks are with House leadership, the bill sponsors and the representatives who voted in favor.”

NAACP-Providence Branch President Jim Vincent:
“The highest priority of the NAACP Providence Branch is voting access and empowerment! The Let RI Vote Act is an important step in increasing voter participation which in turn strengthens our democracy!”

RI Working Families Party Organizing Director Zack Mezera:
“Removing barriers to voting makes our democracy work better for all of us. Advocacy from RIWFP members and voting rights champions from across the state was critical to passing the Let RI Vote Act. This legislation will soon guarantee that working people, seniors, young people, and people with disabilities have the power to cast their vote in the way that best fits their schedule, whether early, by mail, or on election day. We urge Governor McKee to sign this bill quickly, and RIWFP looks forward to advocating for still further voting reforms that will increase the ability of working families to make their voices heard in our elections.

Women’s Fund of Rhode Island CEO Kelly Nevins:
“Women’s Fund of Rhode Island celebrates the passage of this bill. It moves Rhode Island to a more engaged and equitable state, ensuring those who are less able to control their schedules or who have accessibility issues can make their voices heard through expanded voting opportunities. THANK YOU to our legislators who recognized that taking away barriers to voting means a stronger community!”

RI Developmental Disabilities Council Executive Director Kevin Nerney:
“The Rhode Island Developmental Disabilities Council is thankful for the passage of the Let RI Vote Act. This bill removes many significant barriers that interfere with the right to vote for people with developmental disabilities. Rhode Island is one step closer to the promise of self determination and autonomy for people with developmental disabilities.”

Brown Votes Co-Founder Madison Mandell:
“The passage of the Let RI Vote Act will be monumental for youth voting in Rhode Island! There are significant barriers to youth voter participation, and the Let RI Vote Act removes these obstacles and promotes increased voter access. This legislation is essential to growing the next generation of democratically engaged citizens.”

Providence Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Social Action Chair Regina Clement:
“The Providence Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. recognizes and embraces our organization’s social action goal to influence the enactment of legislation, nationally and locally of particular interest to African Americans and women. Voting Rights are a priority for us since our first public service act during the historic 1913 Suffrage March in Washington, DC. Both H7100 and H7428 align with our priorities nicely.”

ACLU-RI Executive Director Steven Brown:
“By eliminating the onerous requirement that people voting by mail ballot obtain the signature of two witnesses or a notary, passage of this bill will promote voter privacy and make it much easier for people with disabilities and others to exercise their right to vote. The legislation is a major step forward in promoting this fundamental right in Rhode Island.”

League of Women Voters RI President Jane Koster:
“Voting rights are under attack around the country. Today our elected leaders in Rhode Island have taken action to protect and expand access to the ballot. The League of Women Voters of Rhode Island believes that the passage of the Let RI Vote Act will enable more people to exercise their right to vote and strengthen our democracy.”

Latino Policy Institute Director Marcela Betancur:
“The Latino Policy Institute is incredibly proud to see this critical legislation pass the General Assembly today. The impacts of this legislation will be felt by eligible voters in all corners of our state, especially among historically marginalized and excluded communities, who, after today, will be able to exercise their right to vote in a safe, secure, and accessible manner.”

Housing Network of Rhode Island Executive Director Melina Lodge:
“Voter access and housing status are undeniably connected. Housing insecurity causes many Rhode Islanders to face barriers to the ballot as they prioritize immediate needs such as shelter and financial security. Their voices matter. Passage of the Let RI Vote Act strengthens our democracy, gives people greater opportunity to vote, and removes long-standing barriers to full and equal participation that low-income households have historically faced. We thank Rep. Kazarian and Sen. Euer for their leadership, and applaud the members of the General Assembly who have championed this important legislation for the voters.”

RI Commission for Human Rights Executive Director Michael D. Évora, Esq.:
“The Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights applauds the sponsors of the Let RI Vote Act and the Rhode Island Voting Access Coalition for their steadfast work on the Act, leading to its passage by the House and Senate.  This will ensure a greater opportunity to vote for senior citizens, people with disabilities, those working multiple jobs and indeed all Rhode Islanders.”

The Womxn Project Director Jocelyn Foye:
“The Womxn Project is proud to be part of the Let RI Vote coalition and to support their work to advance a comprehensive set of changes that will give Rhode Islanders a voice in the systems that have such a huge impact on our health, our families and our lives.”

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The Let RI Vote campaign is a project of the Rhode Island Voting Access Coalition.

Organizations supporting this project include:

AARP Rhode Island ACLU of Rhode Alliance of RI Southeast Asians for Education (ARISE) Brown Votes Clean Water Action Rhode Island College Democrats of Rhode Island Common Cause Rhode Island Every Vote Counts at Brown University Formerly Incarcerated Union of Rhode Island Housing Network of Rhode Island Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University League of Women Voters of Rhode Island NAACP Providence Branch National Council of Jewish Women, RI Action Team National Education Association Rhode Island (NEARI) National Organization for Women,  Rhode Island Chapter Planned Parenthood of Southern New England Providence Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc RepresentUs Rhode Island AFL-CIO Rhode Island Carpenters Union Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence Rhode Island Coalition to End Homelessness Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights Rhode Island Democratic Women’s Caucus Rhode Island Developmental Disabilities Council Rhode Island Latino PAC Rhode Island Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Rhode Island Working Families Party RIght From the Start Campaign ⋄ RI Interfaith Coalition to Reduce Poverty The National Vote at Home Institute United Auto Workers Region 9A The Womxn Project Women’s Fund of Rhode Island