- Associated Press - Thursday, April 21, 2016

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - The Rhode Island Board of Elections said it’s prepared for Tuesday’s presidential primary even though some advocates have said voters could be confused about the small number of polling places.

Elections Director Robert Rapoza said Thursday the decision to open just 144 of the state’s 419 polling places for the primary was made in January. He said it’s been common practice to open fewer polling places during primaries because most registered voters don’t participate. The state will be able to handle a higher than average turnout of at least 30 percent of registered voters, he said.

Among those unhappy with the decision is the campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

“It’s not particularly good for democracy to keep on changing polling locations for people,” said Joe Caiazzo, director of Sanders’ Rhode Island campaign, who added that he doesn’t expect it to be a big problem because “our campaign is making sure our people know exactly where to go.”

Open government advocate John Marion of Common Cause Rhode Island said voters could be confused because their polling place is likely to be different from where they voted in recent statewide races.

He said presidential primaries are typically settled by the time Rhode Islanders participate but the race is hotly contested this year on both the Democratic and Republican sides.

Voters waited for hours in Arizona’s presidential primary last month after Maricopa County, home to about 4 million people, cut its number of polling places from 200 in 2012 to just 60 this year.

By contrast, Rhode Island has more polling places open this year than it did in the 2012 primary. Compared to Arizona’s most populous county, the state also has far fewer people - about 1 million residents and 760,000 registered voters.

The state last had an unusually high primary turnout in March 2008 during the hard-fought Democratic contest between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Rapoza said more than 32 percent of voters turned out for that election. At the time, the state had 541 polling places and opened 178 of them for the primary. Rapoza said the state had no problem handling that primary and will also be able to handle this one.

“The difference between 2008 and 2016 is we are providing more poll workers and more polling booths” within each polling site, he said. Towns and cities each have their own local board of canvassers handling election logistics and “they are comfortable that we’ll be adequate next Tuesday,” Rapoza said.

Marion said his other concern is that this is the first presidential primary when Rhode Island voters will be required to show a photo ID before voting at the polls. Poll workers also asked for some form of identification during the 2012 presidential election but more stringent requirements have since taken effect.

Caiazzo said the Sanders campaign also disapproves of that policy, noting that “it’s a ridiculous practice but it is what it is. These rules were put in place basically to suppress the vote.”


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide