ARLENE VIOLET - Block earns kudos for election work

ARLENE VIOLET - Block earns kudos for election work

A couple of months back I wrote a column about the efforts of Ken Block to clean up the Rhode Island voters’ roll. Mr. Block, at the time, was excoriated by the state Board of Elections and also received a slap on the wrist from Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea.

It now seems that Mr. Block was right after all when he filed a complaint that Rhode Island was violating federal election law since the state did not require that people voting for the first time had to provide their driver’s license number or the last four digits of one’s social security number for identification. To her credit, Gorbea now has added a feature on her website that allows the voter to correct the problem by using a portal to add the information, required by federal law for a federal election.

At its recent Board of Elections meeting the body finally acknowledged the problem brought up by Block and directed the attorney for the Board to draft a regulation to correct it. One Board member, Stephen Erickson, who last November took me to task over a column I wrote that pointed out sloppy procedures in last November’s election, nonetheless, railed against Block and accused him again of ulterior motives. Former Judge Erickson is demeaning his position by personal attacks. There is much that needs correction and he should get on with the task instead of attacking folks who want the voting system to work. For example, Block has submitted about 155 names of people engaged in questionable voting either because they are registered at a fire station or gas station or other addresses that are not allowed and/or who potentially have voted more than once. It is high past time for Mr. Erickson to do his job and forget the fulminating. These kinds of attacks have a chilling effect on citizens coming forward with valuable information.

Recently, I wrote a column citing that Gov. Gina Raimondo has 71 spokespeople sprinkled through the executive branch of government. Michael Raia, her communications director, pointed out that 31 spokespeople are employed by the executive branch while the remainder are in the legislative and judicial branches. Thank you, Michael, for the clarification.

One agency that needs to step up its public information is the R.I. State Police. It pains me to point the finger at them but the recent “information” given around the use of deadly force following the stealth of a police vehicle is woefully inadequate. I can understand that an investigation may still be going on but that very fact should have prevented a declaration that the officers involved did everything by the book. The ACLU has done the public a great service by postulating questions that need answers. A man is dead and a passenger seriously injured. Just what facts were known at the time of the fusillade is vitally important in light of the deadly force policy. The law enforcement community will lose credibility if it is not direct about what happened. The last thing the State Police and Providence Police need is a civil jury punctuating the silence with a huge award for wrongful death and damages.

Violet is an attorney and former state attorney general.