Candidates for office, ACLU sue to suspend normal process of collecting in person signatures

The plaintiffs argue the signatures should be electronic this year given the pandemic.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – The Rhode Island ACLU is suing the Board of Elections, along with other election officials, to try and change how candidates can get on this year’s ballot given the pandemic.

In a normal election year, Senator Gayle Goldin says she would be meeting with constituents and collecting signatures face to face to get on the ballot to run for office.

“But in this particular environment it becomes very complicated,” the incumbent Senator for District 3 said Tuesday.

With current fears over the coronavirus, Goldin and five other candidates are filing the lawsuit with the help of the ACLU to suspend the normal process of collecting in person signatures, arguing it puts people at risk.

They are hoping to instead collect signatures electronically.

“I wish I could feel free to go out and collect signatures and not feel like I’m placing a burden on my constituents in order to get those signatures,” said Goldin.

In addition to risking public health, Goldin and some of the other plaintiffs either have underlying health conditions or family members who do.

She needs 100 verified signatures, meaning people who actually live in her district. Those with smaller town offices need signatures as well. She says it adds up to a lot of interaction.

“That is us in contact with thousands of people in the state just to get their signature on a piece of paper,” said Goldin.

Two doctors also submitted testimony within the lawsuit saying in-person solicitation for signatures will pose a “high risk” to public health, and the only way to stop that is to allow for electronic signatures.

“We need to make sure that we’re protecting people’s health but that we’re also protecting our democracy.”

The lawsuit is requiring a response by June 30, since that is the date candidates need to start collecting signatures.

A spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s office said they cannot comment on pending litigation, but that Secretary Gorbea has shown support for changing the protocols given the circumstances.

Categories: Coronavirus, News, Regional News, Rhode Island