The Rhode Island House of Representatives today passed two bills sponsored by Rep. Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist 73, Newport, Middletown) that together would eliminate the requirement that voters provide an explanation when applying for an emergency mail ballot.
“During the last days before an election, any number of circumstances could come up that might force someone to apply for an emergency mail ballot, and right now the requirements for an excuse are too restrictive,” said RepresentativeAbney. “Expanding the emergency mail ballot system will help ensure that every registered voter gets the chance to cast a ballot.”
The first bill, (2013 H 5567), would change Rhode Island’s emergency mail ballot law so that a voter’s reason for applying for an emergency mail ballot need not have arisen within 20 days before the election, only that they became aware of the reason within 20 days of the election.
The bill was co-sponsored in the House by Reps. Peter F. Martin (D-Dist. 75, Newport), Steven M. Casey (D-Dist. 50, Woonsocket) and Robert D. Phillips (D-Dist. 51, Woonsocket, Cumberland). A companion bill, (2013 S 0447), was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist 29, Warwick).
The second bill, (2013 H 5568A), would change the application form for emergency mail ballots to reflect the change in the emergency mail ballot law. The bill eliminates the voter’s need to certify that the situation that necessitated an emergency ballot arose within the last 20 days before an election. Rhode Island’s emergency mail ballot law provides for four categories of reasons to get an emergency mail ballot, but none of them require that the hindrance occur only with the 20 days of the election.
This legislation was co-sponsored in the House by Reps. Martin, Casey, Phillips and Katherine S. Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence). A Senate companion bill, (2013 S 0445), was also introduced by Senator McCaffrey.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Rhode Island is currently one of 21 states nationwide that are considered to be “excuse-required” states, meaning voters are required to provide a necessitating reason or excuse when applying for a mail ballot. Should the two Abney bills become law, though, Rhode Island would join 27 states along with theDistrict of Columbia as a “no-excuse” state.
“I am so glad that my House colleagues have given their support to repealing these excuse restrictions,” saidRepresentative Abney. “My hope is that these bills help open up the electoral process to more Rhode Islanders, and make our elections more democratic and inclusive.”