Town leaders raising doubts about early voting proposal

Town leaders raising doubts about early voting proposal

CUMBERLAND – A state proposal to offer early voting during the 20 days before official election dates would cost Cumberland at least an added $20,000, Town Clerk Sandra Giovanelli said this week.

Calling it an “unfunded mandate” by state officials, Mayor Bill Murray and a coalition of mayors and administrators are readying opposition to this plan that will require hiring personnel and record-keeping challenges during one of the busiest times in Town Hall.

Giovanelli’s $20,000 is based on the current wage paid for election clerks and doesn’t include the cost of renting space or other expenses.

The bill, House 5700, now before House Judiciary committee was introduced by Rep. Christopher Blazejewski of Providence with support from Rep. Deborah Ruggiero, of the East Bay, in addition to others.

It calls for every town and city to create at least one polling place that allows residents to cast ballots during the 20 days prior to an election, including weekends.

Giovanelli says residents seem to like the early voting option and she’s not opposed to the concept.

This past November saw 496 emergency ballots cast, up from 103 in 2014 she said, and the 152 cast in 2012, the last presidential election.

Mail ballots increased the total pre-election balloting in 2016 to 1,328 in Cumberland.

But the town clerk’s concern with the new bill is that rules for running the site are up to the state Board of Elections and she says officials there have already indicated to the Rhode Island Association of City and Town Clerks Association that a site apart from a town hall will be needed.