ARLENE VIOLET - Clean up Board of Elections

ARLENE VIOLET - Clean up Board of Elections

I have a soft spot for the Rhode Island Board of Elections. My father was on it at the time of his death. Then-Gov. Dennis J. Roberts appointed my mother to fill out his term of office. I remember the long hours for them. Subsequently, I’ve always kept an eye out for stories about the Elections Board and the staff. They haven’t been pretty. After this past November election the Board of Elections has some explaining to do!

Under state law it has the responsibility to supervise elections and provide all necessary tools to carry out the local voting in every district. There was a lot of jawboning following the election about long lines, insufficient numbers of tally machines and jammed machines and the Secretary of State took the hit unfairly since it is the Board’s responsibility. I was on WPRO radio election night with host Tara Granahan and former ABC-6 anchor, Dave Layman. We tried to make repeated calls to the board because of the problems and also about the tally involving House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello’s race but nobody answered the phone. We subsequently found out that it was a day off for the staff!

You heard it right. Yes, the Board of Elections and the staff have Election Day off. Their major responsibility every other year absent a special election is to get the process done right and the votes counted but nobody was at work. Even more appalling was a WPRI story the next day where the reporter was live at the scene and pointed to a woman in a white T-shirt feeding the machine with the ballots cast previously that were either collected in bins because the machines didn’t work or were so-called “emergency ballots.” Other than the man handing her the ballots nobody else was present. The reporter went on to comment that in another room out of view were a few workers who were “copying” ballots which were bent and could not be put through the machines onto blank leftover ballots for processing! There’s no proof that anything nefarious was going on but the opportunity for voter fraud was epic.

Certainly, in the speaker’s race, which was going to come down to mail ballots as were a few other tight races, the State Police should have impounded the ballots and only had anything further done with unprocessed ballots under the watchful eye of representatives from the affected districts.

The Board of Elections also is responsible under state law for the correction of voting lists. The mess of too many eligible voters vs. the census as reported by the Providence Journal was first and foremost due to the Board’s failure to clean up the roll. Fortunately, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea’s spokesperson stated that she had joined the ERIC system in Fiscal Year 2015 and after this election will work with the cities and towns which have identified about 54,192 inactive names on the roster. Kudos to her for wrapping her arms around the problem since the Election Board has been missing in action.

Gorbea is looking to extend the voting days which, while laudable, should be deferred from implementation until appropriate procedures are in place at the state Board of Elections. Otherwise the opportunity for fraud will multiply after the votes arrive at 50 Branch Ave.

Violet is an attorney and former state attorney general.

Comments

in opposite world : the board for Ground Hog Day is a full time job. lol

I am a temporary worker at the Board of Election and I am amazed and appalled at the blatant inaccuracies in this article. There were at least 75 of us at the Board of Elections, ALL DAY AND NIGHT! In fact, Ms. Violet could have just tuned in to any of the major news channels to see LIVE Coverage! This is my first time working here and I was so impressed with the integrity of this office, the Commissioners and the system itself. Each stage of this election was handled delicately and accurately with much attention to every detail to ensure that each vote counted and was processed properly.

I am personally sickened by your article and it's lack of factual information as both a Rhode Island resident and a person who dedicated a lot of time and effort working during this election!