State Board of Elections responds to Violet column

State Board of Elections responds to Violet column

After the planning, training and countless hours of work by the Board of Elections, it was disheartening to read the article by Arlene Violet titled “Clean up the Board of Elections,” published in your paper on Nov. 30, 2016. Our mission is to protect the integrity of the election, and our staff prides themselves in performing the duties of the election process. The criticisms contained within Miss Violet’s article were follies.

First and foremost, the Board of Elections was open on Election Day. As a matter of fact, there were over 54 employees, both full time and seasonal appointments, who reported to work on Election Day, some as early as 5:30 a.m. In addition, the commissioners for the Board of Election and Legal Counsel were present on the day of the election to continue the certification of mail ballots received.

Surprisingly, Ms. Voilet stated that her parents had served on the board, but she was not aware that the Board of Elections was open on Election Day? There were support technicians from ES & S and Knowink (vendors for the new voting equipment and electronic poll pads) assisting in addressing any issues with the equipment at the 461 polling places throughout the state. The Board of Elections hired 105 election technicians, who were assigned to polling locations throughout the state to troubleshoot and repair voting equipment. In the warehouse of the Board of Elections, employees worked diligently accepting and processing mail and emergency ballots. Mail and emergency ballots were accepted for processing up until 8 p.m. on election night. In addition, bipartisan pairs were dispatched to nursing homes and hospitals across the state to deliver last-minute ballot requests received by 4 p.m. on Nov. 7, 2016, to ensure that every eligible voter had the opportunity to cast a vote.

Telephone lines were operating from 6 a.m. until approximately 11 p.m., answering questions from the public, media and candidates. Additional phone lines were dedicated for the Board of Canvassers, polling place employees and Election Day technicians in order to answer technical questions.

The election process continues for days following the election. Local Board of Canvassers deliver qualified provisional ballots to be added to the tallies. In the 2016 general election, there were 41,316 mail and emergency ballots received by the Board of Elections to be certified and processed. Mail ballots that were damaged and unreadable by the voting equipment needed to be re-created by the commissioners and staff for 100 percent accuracy and processed through the 850 Mail Ballot tabulator. Recounts were requested, and if qualified, were scheduled for recount. All certifications, remakes and recounts were open to the public for observation. Candidates, local party chairs, attorneys, media and others gathered in the warehouse to observe the procedures. The dates and times of this process were posted on the Secretary of State’s open meeting website in order to ensure transparency to the election process.

The computerized central voter registration system is maintained, updated and revised by the Secretary of State’s office under the direction of the Board of Elections. The Secretary of State conducts classes for the Board of Canvassers to maintain accurate voter registration records. Joining ERIC in 2015 will help ensure that the records are correct and up-to-date.

The Board of Elections welcomes the opportunity to educate the voters of Rhode Island with informative and accurate information regarding the election duties prescribed by law. Our hours of operation are Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. and all day Election Day.

Richard Dubois

Chairman, Board of Elections