As a local elections official for many years in Warwick, under the leadership of Mayor Scott Avedisian, I am proud that I have played a role in carrying out successful elections every two years. I take my responsibilities very seriously. We are incredibly fortunate to live in a democracy where voters have the opportunity to directly influence their government in the voting booth.
Here in Rhode Island, local election officials have been working closely with the state Board of Elections and the secretary of state’s office to ensure that voters can feel confident in the integrity and security of our elections. While there will always be room for improvement in any system, we have made significant strides in recent years, thanks in no small part to the leadership of Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea.
Since taking office in 2015, Secretary Gorbea has been at the forefront of modernizing elections in Rhode Island, cleaning up our voter rolls and working to increase civic participation throughout our state. While many states grapple with aging voting equipment, Rhode Island now has state-of-the-art machines in every polling place and continues to integrate new technologies aimed at improving our elections. Our state has joined more than 35 other states in enacting online voter registration, a secure system that simplifies registration while ensuring that our voter roll data is kept up to date.
Recently, automatic voter registration became law in our state, allowing eligible citizens to register or update their registration information when interacting with the Division of Motor Vehicles. This is not only convenient for Rhode Islanders, it is one more step toward ensuring that the information contained within our voter rolls is complete and accurate.
Speaking of voter rolls, nearly 70,000 names have been legally removed from our voter rolls, thanks to the secretary’s efforts, with more to come as legal milestones are met. Rhode Island is fortunate to have a strong secretary of state who is so committed to ensuring the integrity of our electoral systems and who has convened stakeholders from across the political spectrum to help accomplish this.
That said, the topics of elections integrity and voter fraud have recently received attention in the media. Donald Trump claimed that millions of votes were cast illegally in last year’s election, and his Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity has been exploring this issue and other potential irregularities. Here in Rhode Island, a recent investigation reportedly found irregularities ranging from voters registered at commercial addresses to people who voted in multiple states.
As election officials, we take any allegations of voting system irregularities seriously. In the vast majority of cases, however, we find what most studies have found — that instances of alleged voter fraud are often caused by voter or poll worker error, or voter misinformation. The Rhode Island Board of Elections has been working closely with local elections officials to investigate reported irregularities with the support of Secretary Gorbea’s office.
Rhode Islanders should feel confident that our electoral systems are secure and we are doing our part to ensure this at the local and state level. Anyone who commits fraud in registering to vote or voting will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The improvements in technology and information that Secretary Gorbea has led have made it easier for us at the local level to continue upholding the integrity of Rhode Island elections.
Dorothy A. McCarthy, of West Warwick, works for Warwick’s Board of Canvassers.