ACLU writes letter of complaint to BOE over change in Woonsocket polling location
WOONSOCKET, R.I. (WLNE) – The Rhode Island ACLU issued a letter of complaint to the state Board of Elections Thursday, saying it believes the Board of Canvassers in Woonsocket is in violation of the law, by not getting permission to move a polling location and not properly notifying voters.
“This appears to be something that the board of canvassers decided months ago, but they really didn’t end up notifying people until very recently,” said Director of the RI ACLU Steven Brown.
The manager for the Board of Canvassers, Michael Narducci, says they sent out postcards notifying people of the change in venue, from Fairmont Heights to Harris Elementary School, a few weeks ago.
Harris Elementary School is outside the voting district.
With less than a week till election day, one resident tells ABC 6 she never got a post card, and only just found out about it from a Facebook post two days ago.
According to Narducci, the board was notified in June that the usual polling place for that voting district, Fairmont Heights, would not be available due to Covid concerns.
“I don’t think that there’s any kind of malicious intent here whatsoever. I believe the intent was to protect people from Covid,” said resident Nwando Ofokansi. “However the unintentional and latent effect of making this change is that it will suppress the vote.”
Ofokansi says the main issue with the change in polling place is that it’s coming in a neighborhood that is already disenfranchised, to people that may have mobility problems, or issues with transportation.
“We are people of color. We are predominantly low-income earners. We are immigrants. We are English language learners. So those already present a lot of obstacles to being able to access the vote,” said Ofokansi. “This creates an unnecessary difficulty that can be the difference between voting and not voting for a lot of people.”
According to the Board of Canvassers, there will be a sign on the door instructing people to go to Harris Elementary School.
The Board of Elections is having a meeting Friday, but it’s unclear if this will be discussed.