Making Democracy Work

Voting and Elections

The League has positions on a variety of issues related to voting and elections.

Election Procedures in Rhode Island

position udated April 25, 1998; position adopted April 1986 - Addition approved June 1986

Voter Registration The League of Women Voters of Rhode Island supports the registration of voters by mail. Safeguards should be put in place to reduce the possibility of fraud. Improved accessibility of voter registration is supported. Procedures such as mail registration and the availability of registration at the Registry of Motor Vehicles are examples. To improve the minimum standards for the selection of registrars, improvement in the training of those registrars, and brief apprenticeships with experienced registrars. A verification of registration should be given to the voter when person to person registration occurs to encourage registrar accountability. Mail Ballots The application for a mail ballot should be revised and simplified. The law requiring that a mail ballot should be postmarked from the state to which it was mailed should be eliminated. Election Day Procedures The law concerning politicking inside and outside the polls should be enforced. Procedures should be written on who enforces the law and how this enforcement is carried out. Penalties should be included in the law for violations. The law should to allow assignment of poll workers to any districts within the city or town they reside in. All poll workers should be appointed, not elected. Multi-media efforts should be made by Boards of Canvassers to inform voters of polling place changes.

Voting Procedures in Rhode Island

Adopted January 8, 1996

Poll Workers LWVRI recommends that Boards of Canvassers be given increased authority and responsibility for recruitment as well as for selection of poll workers. Except for party primaries, poll workers should not be limited to members of the Democratic and Republican parties. Unaffiliated voters should be eligible, and members of other parties should not be excluded from appointment. To safeguard election integrity, no polling place should be staffed by members of a single party. The State Board of Elections training of poll workers should be strengthened and improved and should include input from local boards. Smaller class size and more hands on experience with machines exemplify changes LWVRI supports. LWVRI supports mandatory training for poll workers before certification to work at a poll. A reasonable certification period should be established, so that workers need not repeat training unnecessarily. LWVRI encourages wider use of the half-day at half-pay provision currently in RI law.

Election Day/Polling Place Because witnessing disaffiliation signatures can consume an inordinate amount of a warden's time during Primary elections, the law should permit an additional person to be authorized to witness disaffiliation signatures. Each polling place should be required to have a "street index" of voting districts and a list of polls for the entire city or town, or equivalent information, to assist voters. A method to provide feedback from voters and poll workers should be provided at each polling place. Adequate outside lighting at entrances and in parking areas at polling places should be required by law. While recognizing that additional cost may be incurred in some instances, LWVRI believes that safety of voters is of utmost importance.

Mail Ballots LWVRI supports the concept of "no excuse" absentee voting, in which any voter may make application and receive an absentee ballot without stating a reason. While this method may present opportunities for fraudulent voting different from the current method, appropriate safeguards would prevent the overall rate of fraud from increasing. LWVRI does NOT support the concept of permanent "no excuse" absentee status, but believes the voter must reapply for each election.

Early Voting Early voting procedures should be investigated by the state for feasibility of use in Rhode Island.

A Unified and Computerized Voter Registration System In Rhode Island

A Unified and Computerized Voter Registration System January 1995 The League of Woman Voters of Rhode Island supports the state acquisition (or lease) and maintenance of a unified and computerized voter registration system for the 39 local Boards of Canvassers, state agencies, and the Central Voter Registry. Voter registrations should be stored in a central database. Duplicate data entry should be abolished. The new registration system should take highest priority because Rhode Island must meet the requirements of the national and Rhode Island Voting Rights laws. To ensure the integrity of the registration process, criteria for the selection and maintenance of the new registration system and for the procedures on the use of the registration system must include:

Security of registration, including protection against fraud and other data loss. The following should be included:

  • Audit trails.
  • Maintenance of in-house expertise
  • To provide professional systems management of the whole voter registration system.
  • To assess independently any hardware, software, and support supplied by vendors.

Timely updating, Interactive updating or daily batch processing should be the ideal.

Privacy of all registration information except that legally required to be public.

Accurate and efficient maintenance of registration records.

Operating ease for both software and hardware.

Collection and maintenance of all information required by law.

Accurate and easy-to-use reports for:

  • Polling place voter lists.
  • Jury selection.
  • Other

A coordinate computerized system of street indexes:
  • To enable printing of accurate registration confirmation cards.
  • To aid legislators in redrawing district lines.
  • To aid Boards of Canvassers in selecting polling places.
  • To provide a report by street that shows the districts and polling place of any address.

Cost analysis, including hardware, software, personnel, maintenance, phone lines, etc.

New Voting Machines and a New System for Recording and Counting Votes

Adopted January 1995; amended August 2001 The League of Women Voters of Rhode Island supports the following standards for state acquisition (or lease) and maintenance of voting machines: It is essential that any equipment, systems, and procedures used for voting in RI guarantee the integrity of the voting process and vote totals. The basic criteria for selection and maintenance of the voting equipment and for procedures on the use of the new voting system must include: Security of the vote, including protection against fraud and other data loss. The following should be included:
  • Audit trails
  • Procedures that assure that the software programs used in voting machines are identical to those deposited with the appropriate state office.
  • Mandatory recount of a small percentage of the votes to confirm the computerized results.
  • Maintenance of in-house expertise
  • To provide professional Systems management of the whole voting system.
  • To assess independently any hardware, software, and support supplied by vendors.
  • Escrow of source code to protect the state in case of default of the vendor.

Privacy of the vote.

Orderliness of voting.

Accuracy of vote recording and summation. Rhode Island should adopt formalized written procedures for testing, ensuring, and maintaining (as recommended in National Bureau of Standards 500-158) the following:

  • Logical correctness of the software and the system.
  • Protection of software and data files from outside influences, such as tampering and viruses.
  • Accuracy of the voter's recording of his or her votes.

A new absentee ballot system, integrated with the polling place system.

A new computerized roll-up of vote totals from polling places (to sum the statewide and local votes).

Cost analysis, including hardware, software, personnel, ballots, maintenance, etc.

At minimum, Rhode Island should adopt the Federal Election Commission Performance Standards for the Purchase of Computerized Vote Tallying Systems. RI should require regular review of laws and regulations to ensure accuracy, integrity and security in computerized vote tallying.

Redistricting in Rhode Island

Adopted February 2001

POSITION IN BRIEF: Support a state redistricting process and standards that promote fair and effective representation in the state legislature and in the U.S. House of Representatives with maximum opportunity for public scrutiny.

Support of an independent, non-partisan commission with broad-based community, civic, and minority representation as the preferred redistricting body. The redistricting process, regardless of who has responsibility for redistricting, should include:

a. time limits for the process:

i. automatic non-judicial procedures for problems of process and timely completion of the redistricting;
ii. automatic court action if the plan is not completed on time (the plan including appeals must be in place 30 days before the deadline for candidate declarations to run for office);
b. maximum opportunity for public scrutiny, including:
i. public access to data and the computer redistricting software during the process (note: the State should retain ownership of all computer data used):
ii. public hearings in a variety of locations around the state during the process (one suggestion was to hold at least 3 meetings in each congressional district);
iii. information concerning redistricting should also be widely disseminated to the public by means of all available media, the internet/web, libraries and so on;
iv. wide dissemination of the final plan both in print (at municipal offices and libraries) and in electronic form with notices concerning availability in all media;
c. the requirement that changes to the plan proposed by the redistricting body or approval of the plan must be by a 2/3s vote of the legislative body; d. appeal of the final plan should be allowed for the Attorney General, non-profit groups, individual citizens, municipalities, and civic groups

The standards on which a redistricting plan is based, regardless of who has responsibility for redistricting, a. should include, as required by federal and state law:

1) substantially equal population;
2) geographic contiguity;
3) protection from diluting the voting strength of a racial or linguistic minority;
b. should prohibit the consideration of:
1) the political affiliations of registered voters;
2) previous election results;
c. to the extent possible, standards should also include:
1) respect for boundaries of municipalities;
2) census boundaries;
3) consideration of geographic boundaries particularly where they would be an impediment to travel within a district.

Responsibility for redistricting preferably should be vested in an independent commission, with membership that includes legislators (a politically balanced group by party), a representative of from the League of Cities and Towns, and representatives from community, civic, and minority groups.

Voting Rights in the United States

The League of Women Voters of the United States believes that voting is a fundamental citizen right that must be guaranteed (LWVUS Position March 1982).

Campaign Finance in the U.S.

The League of Women Voters of the US adopted this position on January 1974 and revised it on March 1982

The League of Women Voters of the United States believes that the methods of financing political campaigns should ensure the public's right to know, combat corruption and undue influence, enable candidates to compete more equitably for public office and allow maximum citizen participation in the political process. This position is applicable to all federal campaigns for public office - presidential and congressional, primaries as well as general elections. It also may be applied to state and local campaigns. Background materials and the full LWVUS position are published in Impact on Issues and may be read online or downloaded.