RI Board of Elections uses new equipment to speed up ballot counting process
CRANSTON, R.I. (WLNE) – As of noon on Wednesday, all cities and towns must deliver their mail ballots from their local drop boxes.
Once this happens, the Board of Elections can count the final ballots and voters can expect results as soon as Wednesday night or Thursday morning, according to election officials.
Bob Rapoza, Executive Director of Rhode Island Board of Elections says they have been working hard to certify 32,000 mail ballots.
“Due to the pandemic, we have shifted gears from a predominantly polling place election to mail ballots,” Bob Rapoza, Executive Director of Rhode Island Board of Elections said.
That number is eight times the amount of mail ballots compared to years past, but thanks to the purchase of a $450,000 machine, ballots can be verified quicker and safer.
“In the past, to do a certification it would take a team of certifiers a day to certify 1,000 voter’s signatures, now we can do 1,000 per hour,” Rapoza said.
First the ballots must go through a machine that sorts them by city or town and takes a digital picture of voter’s signatures. The machine then verifies the signature by their signature on file, which then goes to pairs of election officials to verify against the State Central Voter Registration System on computer workstations.
The ballots are then opened and fed through high speed counters, which have the capability of processing up to 10,000 mail ballots per hour.
On Primary Tuesday, 45,000 people voted in-person and nearly 7,000 voted early.
Wednesday, local canvassers dropped off the final drop box mail ballots.
The number of mail ballots is expected to increase dramatically near the General Election.
“For November, the Presidential Elections are always the busiest elections ever that the board of elections conducts,” Rapoza said. “We will be opening 421 polling places throughout the state and every city and town hall.”
Rapoza says they expect about 450,000 mail ballots for the General Election. A new executive order allows the Board of Elections to begin verifying mail ballots 20 days prior to the election; however, they cannot share those results in real time.