Rhode Islanders head to polls for historic early in-person voting

NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WLNE) — For the first time ever Rhode Island is offering early in-person voting for the general election, and already thousands of people have cast their votes.

“I wanted to just do it,” said voter Bob Schindell of North Kingstown. “I didn’t want to put it off. I thought I knew what I was going to do on my ballot, so I thought, why wait?”

And waiting in long lines was not a problem today at North Kingstown Town Hall — unlike the situation in other states.

“I think spreading it out, having the opportunity to come over a period of time, not just show up on Election Day itself – take advantage of that. I’ve waited in longer lines at the food store,” Schindell said.

Another reason he prefers voting in-person over a mail ballot?

“You get the affirmation that the ballot has been recorded,” Schindell said. “And if there’s ever a question about how you’re tabulated, there’s a paper trail.”

Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea says spreading out in-person voting over more days is about giving voters more options to vote easily — and now safely in the pandemic.

“This is something I’ve advocated for a long time, basically when I was elected in 2015 when I came into office,” said Gorbea, a Democrat. “And it’s especially useful this year because it’s going to reduce crowding at polling places on Election Day. Your health should never be the price of admission to our democracy.”

Early in-person voting begins just as the Board of Elections decided not to count mail ballots that are postmarked by Election Day but arrive after polls close that day.

“I’m disappointed,” Gorbea said. “I had advocated for that, but that is now done.”

The secretary of state says it’s all the more reason why people should not delay.

“Please vote early,” she said. “You can get your ballot in early and you don’t have to worry about the 8 PM deadline on election night for handing in your ballot.”

The Secretary of State’s office says at least 6,430 people voted in-person statewide as of about Wednesday evening.

Categories: News, Politics, Rhode Island