2014-09-04 / Around Town

Newport Ready for Primaries

By Barry Bridges

The Newport Canvassing Authority, comprised of Chair David F. Roderick, Canvassing Clerk Richard E. O’Neill, and David W. Rogers, is busy finalizing the details for the Democratic and Republican primaries that will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 9.

At a preparatory meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 2, O’Neill advised his colleagues that “we’re ready to go.”

Voting equipment was scheduled to be delivered to the precincts on Wednesday, Sept. 3. The machines will probably be put in storage at most locations until Monday, when the rooms will be set up to conform to state requirements.

Poll workers have been fully trained and substitutes are on call for primary day.

The eight polling locations for Newporters are at Pell Elementary School, St. John’s Church, Donovan Manor, Fenner Hall, St. Peter’s Church, Thompson Middle School, Newport Public Library, and the Rogers High School auditorium. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. To accommodate voters, it is a “no school” day for students, although teachers will be reporting for work.

The emergency absentee ballot period is continuing and will be in effect until the day before the election. The authority is certifying absentee ballot applications as they are received. There were 134 applications from Newport residents during the regular filing period, and 30 absentee emergencies have been received so far.

The city’s Department of Public Services will handle traffic details on Sept. 9, setting up parking restrictions and ensuring that handicapped spaces are available.

The Canvassing Authority will be in session all day on primary day, from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Roderick, O’Neill, and Rogers will be on hand at City Hall to address issues, questions, or complaints that arise at the precincts.

One aspect of election protocol receiving more attention this year is the 50-foot buffer zone required of campaign workers at polling places. In the past, over-aggressive campaigners have sometimes invaded the reserved space, but it is more common with the staffs of state and national candidates. Supporters cannot post signs on public property or at precinct locations, although they can stand and hold signs beyond the 50-foot perimeter.

Authority members also traditionally check throughout the day to keep tabs on turnout. Although it’s not a presidential election year, the competitive governor’s race in both the Democratic and Republican parties, as well as the House District 75 contest between incumbent Peter Martin and Lauren Carson, may prompt more of the electorate to head out and participate. No write-in candidates are allowed in the primaries.

When the polls close, the authority will reconvene and wait for each precinct to deliver a sealed cartridge that tabulates the results for that location. After all eight cartridges are received, the machine counts are tallied and loaded into the state’s computer system. Absentee ballots will be counted in Providence and will be added to the totals reported by local clerks.

This system means that the candidates may know how their numbers are looking prior to official calculations are announced. Numbers are posted at each location after voting ends and candidate representatives are often there to record the information.

The Canvassing Authority is continuing to remind the public of new photo identification requirements in effect this year. Section 17-19- 24.2 of the Rhode Island General Laws, enacted in 2011, specifies that beginning in 2014, voters will need to present one of the following forms of photo ID: (1) Rhode Island driver’s license; (2) U.S. passport; (3) state- or U.S. governmentissued ID card; (4) ID card issued by a U.S. educational institution; (5) U.S. military ID card; (6) government issued medical card; or (7) a Rhode Island voter ID card.

Forms of identification must be valid and cannot have expired, but they do not need to reflect the holder’s current address.

Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis states that no eligible voter will be turned away. Those who do not bring acceptable photo identification can cast a provisional ballot, which will ultimately be counted if the signature given at the polling place matches the signature on their registration.

A Rhode Island voter ID card is available upon proof of identity to those who do not possess a valid photo identification listed in the statute. For additional information on obtaining the card, refer to the Secretary of State’s website at sos. ri.gov or call 401-222-2340.

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