PRESS RELEASE from Rhode Island General Assembly
April 12, 2013

House Oversight issues final report on 2012 election

Calls for better overall planning, new machines, more training for poll workers

STATE HOUSE – The House Committee on Oversight has issued its final report on the 2012 elections, listing findings and recommendations stemming from a series of hearings on problems encountered during the November balloting.

While the committee reports that the vast majority of polling places reported no problems and that there was no evidence the Voter ID law or changes in the size and location of polling places caused any problems or delays, the Oversight Committee report does call for better overall election planning, more training for poll workers and the purchase of new voting machines for the state.

Rep. Michael J. Marcello (D-Dist. 41, Scituate, Cranston), Chairman of the Oversight Committee, said the committee is issuing its findings and recommendations “with confidence that they will improve the voters’ experience at the polls. If implemented, the committee’s recommendations will help to improve election planning, poll worker training and recruitment and data collection.”

The committee conducted four hearings on the 2013 election and problems that were experienced at polling places, receiving testimony from the Office of the Secretary of State, the State Board of Elections, other public officials and representatives of several groups, including the ACLU, NAACP, League of Women Voters and Common Cause.

The committee heard testimony that adequate polling places are difficult to find in many voting districts, that recruiting capable, reliable poll workers has proven to be difficult in most municipalities, that there are concerns about ballots with multiple pages, and that the current voting machines, purchased in 1997, are no longer adequate.

The committee also expressed a concern that, as of March of this year, the ballot reconciliation of the election results of the 2012 general elections had not been completed.

The committee recommended that the Board of Elections, working with the local Boards of Canvassers, needs to establish written minimum standards for the selection of polling places, including adequate parking, signage and lighting. As a separate recommendation, the committee would like the Board of Elections to work with local Boards of Canvassers to collect data on the length of the lines at polling places, the peak times of voting and the length of time voters take in the privacy booths.

Several of the committee’s recommendations focuses on staffing of the polls and recruitment and training of the poll workers, including:

-- The Board of Elections needs to increase the number of poll workers and require greeters at polling places with an historic high turnout or with a history of long lines at the polls;

-- The Board of Elections, local Boards of Canvassers and Secretary of State’s Office should adopt a state plan to recruit high quality poll workers and implement a program to certify poll workers, including a test.

-- The Board of Elections should improve its training of election clerks to decrease mistakes on elections certificates.

-- The Board needs to hire and train more technicians to repair machines on election day.

Several of the committee’s recommendations impact on the Office of the Secretary of State. The committee would like the Secretary of State’s Office to have the authority to set a maximum number of pages for the ballot, and to undertake a review of the ballot designs for ease of voting and to consider new designs for bilingual ballots that is less confusing. The committee is also recommending that the Secretary of State should be added as an ex-officio member of the Board of Elections to increase communications between the two offices.

It is also the committee’s recommendation to support funding to the Board of Elections for the purchase of new voting machines, and to direct the board to develop a plan to replace the machines before the next presidential election in 2016.

Other members of the committee are Rep. Arthur J. Corvese (D-Dist. 55, North Providence), Co-Vice Chair; Rep. Teresa Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, Narragansett, South Kingstown), Co-Vice Chair; Rep. Karen L. MacBeth (D-Dist. 52, Cumberland), Secretary; Rep. Michael W. Chippendale (R-Dist. 40, Coventry, Foster, Glocester); Rep. Elaine A. Coderre (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket); Rep. Lisa Baldelli Hunt (D-Dist. 49, Woonsocket); Rep. Jeremiah T. O’Grady (D-Dist. 46, Lincoln, Pawtucket); Rep. Thomas A. Palangio (D-Dist. 3, Providence); Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick); Rep. Lisa P. Tomasso (D-Dist. 29, Coventry, West Greenwich); Rep. Donna M. Walsh (D-Dist. 36, Charlestown, New Shoreham, South Kingstown, Westerly), and Rep. Thomas Winfield (D-Dist. 53, Smithfield, Glocester).

A link to the full report:

For more information, contact:
Randall T. Szyba, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-2457