VOTING RIGHTS: A Guide for Rhode Island Voters in 2018 - a "Know Your Rights" pamphlet circulated by The ACLU of Rhode Island.

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'VOTING RIGHTS: A Guide for Rhode Island Voters in 2018' Pamphlet

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This information is designed to help protect your right to vote under the state's photo voter ID law. Keep this handy, and take it with you to the polls on Election Day. (Information is accurate as of July 6, 2018. Subject to change.) Download a pdf version of this brochure.Click here for this pamphlet in Spanish, including a link to a printable PDF (Espanol). Had a problem at the polls? Download our election complaint form, or call our office at (401) 831-7171.

The Party Primary is Wednesday, September 12, 2018.

The General Election is Tuesday, November 6, 2018.


Who Can Vote?

Can I vote in Rhode Island?
To vote in a Rhode Island election, you must be registered at least 30 days before the election. You can vote in a Rhode Island election if you are:

  • A U.S. citizen
  • At least 18 years old on Election Day
  • A Rhode Island resident
  • Not currently incarcerated for a felony
  • Not legally declared mentally incompetent to vote by a court
  • Registered to vote

What if I'm a student?
You can register to vote at whatever address you consider your primary legal residence. This can be your school address or your home address.

What if I've been convicted of a crime?
If you were convicted of a misdemeanor, you can vote. If you’re incarcerated for a misdemeanor, you'll have to vote by absentee ballot. If you were convicted of a felony, you can vote unless you're currently incarcerated for your felony offense. If you're on parole or probation, you can vote at the polls.

What if I'm homeless?
You don't need a home to register, but you do have to identify a place of residence (which can be a street corner, a shelter, or another place where you usually stay). You can also use the address of the Board of Canvassers in the town where you usually stay.

What if I've moved or changed my name?
Update your registration every time you move or change your name.

  • If you moved to Rhode Island from another state and didn't register before the deadline, you cannot vote.
  • If you moved to a new city or town within the state after the registration deadline, you can still vote at your old polling place in your old city or town.
  • If you moved to a new city or town within RI between six months and 30 days before the election and didn't re-register, you can only vote at the Board of Canvassers of your old city or town. You will only be allowed to vote in federal and statewide races.
  • If you moved to a new voting district (precinct) within your city or town after the deadline: vote at your Board of Canvassers or the polling place for your old address.
  • If you moved to a new voting district (precinct) within your city or town on or before the 30 day advance registration deadline and didn’t re-register: vote at your Board of Canvassers or the polling place for your new address.
  • If you have moved since June 11, 2018 and updated your driver's license or state ID through the DMV, your information should have been automatically updated, but it’s a good idea to confirm your registration status online at http://vote.sos.ri.gov or by calling your local Board of Canvassers.

How do I know if I'm registered?
Check your registration status at http://vote.sos.ri.gov or by calling your local Board of Canvassers.


Registration

For the general election, you must register to vote by Sunday, October 7, 2018.

You can register to vote:

  1. In person by filling out a voter registration form at your local Board of Canvassers, located in your city or town hall;
  2. By mail by filling out a voter registration form and mailing it to your local Board of Canvassers or the state Board of Elections;
  3. Online at http://vote.sos.ri.gov; or
  4. When you apply for services at state agencies that provide public assistance (such as Medicaid, WIC, and food stamps) or services to people with disabilities, and at armed forces recruitment offices. You may also be able to register at some other state and federal offices and agencies.
  5. Unless you choose otherwise, you should be automatically registered to vote if eligible when you apply for a driver's license or state ID at the Department of Motor Vehicles.
  6. You can get mail-in voter registration forms from your local Board of Canvassers, and from most libraries, offices of city and town clerks, colleges and high schools, or by calling (401) 222-2340, or by going online at https://vote.sos.ri.gov/ovr/voters/updating_your_voter_registration.

Voting Early

Can I vote before Election Day?
Probably. You can vote early by mail if for any reason you might not be able to vote at your polling place on Election Day, including if it would be physically difficult for you.

How do I get a mail ballot?

  • You can get an application for a mail (absentee) ballot at your local Board of canvassers or at https://vote.sos.ri.gov/ovr/voters/vote_by_mail.Your completed application must be received by your local Board of Canvassers by 4 p.m., 21 days before the election.

What's the deadline for returning my mail (absentee) ballot?
Your mail ballot must be received by the state Board of Elections by 8 p.m. on the day of the election.


Voting on Election Day

When are the polls open?
Polls are generally open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. (except in New Shoreham, where polls open at 9 a.m.). During primary elections, polls open in Jamestown at 8 a.m., and in Hopkinton, Little Compton, and Westerly at 9 a.m. You have the right to vote if you're in line when the polls close, even if the line is outside of the building.

Can I get time off from work to vote?
Maybe. The law doesn't require employers to give the employees paid or unpaid time off from work to vote, but your employer might have its own policy allowing you to do so.

Where do I vote?
You have to vote at your assigned polling place, which is listed on the voter registration card you receive in the mail when you register. However, the polling location on that card is subject to change, so it's worth re-checking ahead of time in case the location has changed. Polling place locations will be published in a local newspaper before the General Election. For more up-to-date information, call your local Board of Canvassers or look up your polling place at http://vote.sos.ri.gov.

What if I have a disability and my polling place is not accessible?

  • You have the right to an accessible polling place and an accessible voting machine.
  • If you find your polling place inaccesible on election day, call the RI Disability Law Center at (401) 831-3150.  If you learn it's inaccesible prior to Election Day, call your local Board of Canvassers right away and ask for an alternative method of voting, such as an emergency mail ballot or reassignment to an accessible polling place.
  • If you are visually impaired or have a disability that prevents you from marking a ballot, your polling place has a special voting terminal for you to use. Ask your poll worker about the Automark.
  • If you need a Braille or tactile ballot, you must ask for one in advance. The deadline for a Braille or tactile ballot for the general election is Monday, September 24, 2018.
  • On Election Day, you can bring one or more people to assist you. This can be anyone you choose as long as the person is not your employer, an agent of your employer, or an officer or agent of your labor union. You will need to fill out an affidavit at the polling place.

What if I need language assistance?

  • If you vote in Providence, Central Falls or Pawtucket, you have the right to assistance in Spanish. A designated poll worker is required to offer this assistance to you. If they don’t, tell a poll worker that you want assistance in Spanish. You’re also entitled to a translation of the ballot and other election materials.
  • You also have the right to bring an interpreter with you to the polls or get assistance in your language from anyone you choose, including a poll worker, as long as the person is not your employer, an agent of your employer, or an officer or agent of your labor union.

What if I need help in the voting booth?

  • If you need help because of a physical disability or because you can’t read the ballot, tell a poll worker when you get to your polling place. You can have someone, including the poll worker, assist you in the voting booth.
  • If you need language assistance, bring an interpreter with you to the polls.
  • If you need instructions on how to use the voting equipment, ask a poll worker. They are required to help you at any time you ask.

Can I take election materials with me into my polling place?

  • Yes, as long as they’re for your own use. Examples include a sample ballot, a voter guide, or this brochure. If you leave immediately after voting, you can also wear political buttons or clothing in the polling place. But you’re not allowed to distribute campaign materials within 50 feet of your polling place.

Can I bring my children with me?

  • Yes. State law permits you to bring a child under the age of 18 into the voting booth with you.

Voter ID

Click here to download our Voter ID palmcard, which you can take with you to the polls.

Do I have to show ID?

  • Rhode Island law requires you to show photo identification in order to vote by regular ballot at the polls. However, if you do not have photo ID and want to vote at the polls, you cannot be turned away, and must instead be given a provisional ballot.

What are the accepted forms of photo ID?

Accepted forms of photo ID include a current and valid:

  • Rhode Island driver's license or permit
  • Rhode Island voter identification card
  • State or federal ID card
  • US passport
  • US military ID card
  • Student ID card from an educational institution located within the US
  • ID card issued by any federally recognized tribal government
  • Government-issued medical card

What if I don't have any ID?

  • If you believe you are property registered and at the right polling place, you cannot be turned away because you lack ID. You can cast a provisional ballot. A provisional ballot will not be fed through the voting machine. Instead, you will fill it out and sign it. Once the polls close, the Board of Canvassers will review the ballot. The ballot will be counted if the signature you provided matches the one on your voter registration. When you vote at the polling place, you will be given information explaining how you can find out whether your vote was counted.
  • If you have time and have ID at home or work, it’s usually better to get your ID and return to the polls to cast a regular ballot.
  • You can also obtain a free voter ID through the Secretary of State’s office. For information on how to obtain a voter ID card, visit https://vote.sos.ri.gov/assets/pdfs/voter_id_information.pdf.

Problems at the Polls

What if I'm not on the voter list?

  • Ask a poll worker to check the list again and confirm that you’re at the right polling place.
  • If you believe you’re at the right polling place but your name isn’t on the list, ask for a provisional ballot. You have the right to cast a provisional ballot as long as you’re willing to swear that you believe you are registered to vote.

What if I go to the wrong polling place?

  • Ask a poll worker to help you find the right polling place. You can also call your local Board of Canvassers, or look up your polling place at vote.sos.ri.gov.
  • If nobody can determine where you’re registered or you don’t have time to go to the correct polling place, you can cast a provisional ballot. However, if you cast your provisional ballot at the wrong polling place, only your votes for federal office will be counted.

What if someone challenges my right to vote?

  • Ask for a provisional ballot. You have the right to cast a provisional ballot even if you've been challenged.

What if someone tries to intimidate or harass me?

  • Tell a poll worker right away. If the poll worker is the problem, tell a poll watcher, call your local Board of Canvassers, or call one of the election hotline numbers listed at the end of this page. You also have the right to electronically record polling place activities, as long as it is done outside the enclosed voting area and does not hinder the election process.

What if I make a mistake on my ballot or the voting machine malfunctions?

  • Tell a poll worker before you cast your vote. You have the right to a replacement ballot if you catch the error before you cast your ballot. If you haven’t properly filled out the ballot and the voting machine rejects it, you have the right to a replacement ballot.
  • If your voting machine malfunctions, you can request a different machine or a paper ballot.

How do I make a complaint?
Ask the person in charge at your polling place. Candidates, political parties, and nonprofit groups may also have poll watchers at your polling place. If any of these people can’t resolve your complaint, call your local Board of Canvassers, the state Board of Elections, or call:

  • ACLU of Rhode Island: (401) 831-7171
  • Rhode Island Secretary of State Elections Division: (401) 222-2340
  • RI Disability Law Center: (401) 831-3150
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