Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Let’s Improve Access to the Polls

As the General Assembly session enters the final weeks, it’s not too late for the legislature to put the interest of the people first. In recent weeks the House has voted to impose a photo identification requirement on voters, and both chambers have supported closing the polls earlier Election Day. Now is the time to tell the General Assembly that the nearly half-million Rhode Islanders who voted last year deserve more, and not less, access to the polls.

The first order of business is passing the bill that gives 16 and 17 year-olds the ability to preregister. After being vetoed numerous times, this bill deserves to be passed again in time so that any veto can be overridden. Likewise the bill to provide a direct election in cases of U.S. Senate vacancies should be passed. Voters, not politicians, should decide who represents us.

It is not for lack of ideas that the Assembly is not making it easier for people to cast their ballots. The Assembly has before it two bills that would make it easier for citizens to vote. The first allows citizens who cannot be bound by the historical anachronism of the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, to vote during business hours at town halls the week prior to the election. The second bill would make it easier for voters to receive a mail ballot if they cannot vote on Election Day. Where are these bills in the legislative process? They are stuck in committee, with the early voting bill not even receiving a hearing as the final weeks of the session.

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