2016-04-07 / Opinion


Presidential Politics Stir in Rhode Island

The newspaper that now has your attention was published on Thursday, April 7. What that means, in political terms at least, is that in just 19 days Rhode Islanders who are so inclined – and who have followed the requirements to be properly registered to vote – will be eligible to participate in the state’s 2016 presidential preference primary.

April 26. Save the date. Before you forget, circle the date on your calendar. It’s the day you’ll get to take part in the nightly barrage of televised political coverage that is yours if you watch CNN, MSNBC, or Fox Cable News.

If you’re a political junkie, this is not news to you. No, for you, the nightly political fix is mandatory. For the rest of you, this may be the message that awakens your political senses.

If so, we advise you to finish this piece right now and go to the presidential primary tab on the Rhode Island Secretary of State’s website at sos.ri.gov. The site features a guide for candidates, delegates, and voters and will provide everything you ever wanted to know – and more – about the primary.

You may also discern that, as these things go, Little Rhody is not a major prize to Donald Trump or his two remaining primary opponents. Nor are Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders likely to divert precious campaign finance dollars to the Ocean State from larger states with many more national convention delegates such as New York, Pennsylvania or California.

New York, for example, has 95 Republican delegates at stake, while Democrats will battle for the Empire State’s 291 delegates. California, late in the primary season on June 7, awards 172 Republican delegates (winner takes most) and – get this – 546 Democratic delegates.

Rhode Island’s delegate “haul,” so to speak, is just 19 on the GOP side and 33 for the Democrats. Slim pickings by comparison, you’ll have to concede. Still, you might get a kick out of looking through the names of potential Rhode Island delegates to either of the major party conventions this summer. In a state as compact as Rhode Island, you are bound to see a friend’s or neighbor’s name as a delegate candidate on the ballot. And who knows? That might be enough to get you to vote on April 26.

If appearances can be trusted, Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea seems to have everything buttoned down so that the state can avoid what happened earlier this week in Wisconsin. There, confirming what seems to be a political truth (that Republicans prosper with smaller voter turnouts while Democrats are buttressed by large voter turnouts), voters by the thousands for various reasons had difficulty voting.

Some in Wisconsin allege that this came about as a result of successful GOP efforts to save money by reducing the number of polling places and by enacting restrictive voter identification laws.

If so, let’s hope we see none of that in Rhode Island.

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