Legislation sponsored by Rep. Aaron Regunberg and Sen. Gayle Goldin to make voter registration easier for Rhode Islanders was ceremoniously signed into law today by Gov. Gina M. Raimondo. The bill, which the the lawmakers introduced in conjunction with in conjunction with Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea, will allow Rhode Islanders to register to vote or update their voter information online in time for the November 2016 elections.
"Making voter registration available online means it's conveniently accessible to Rhode Islanders 24 hours a day, so no matter how busy they may be or what kind of hours they work, they have the opportunity to be a registered voter," said Representative Regunberg (D-Dist. 4, Providence). "Electronic registration will encourage more Rhode Islanders, especially younger people, to register to vote by eliminating the necessity of having to get to City Hall during business hours, and will help get more people involved in the democratic process."
"This legislation is a way to make government work more efficiently for citizens," said Senator Goldin (D-Dist. 3, Providence). "Allowing people to type in their own information means no one has to transcribe handwritten applications, eliminating an opportunity for errors as well as a time-consuming task for public employees. At least one study has shown that the reduction in paperwork has saved the public money. And allowing voters the ability to check and update their registration records online can help eliminate hassles that might otherwise result in problems at the polls for them."
"This is about making it easier for Rhode Islanders to engage with government and participate in our democratic process," Governor Raimondo said. "With the passing of this legislation, government is becoming more efficient, helping constituents to perform their civic duty and make their voices heard."
"As the State's Chief Election Official, I'm working to make sure our elections are fair, fast and accurate," Gorbea said. "This legislation will make it easier for citizens to register to vote and update their voter information while improving the accuracy and integrity of Rhode Island's voter rolls. I thank Governor Raimondo and the General Assembly for working to modernize our elections and engage more Rhode Islanders in our electoral process."
In addition to authorizing the Department of State to establish a web portal for eligible voters to register or update their existing voter registration information online, the legislation (2016-H 7024, 2016-S 2513aa) allows the department to cross-reference voter registration information with voter databases of other states. This will help the Department of State clean up the state's voter rolls.
Rhode Island joins 31 states and the District of Columbia that currently offer online voter registration, and three additional states that are in the implementation process.
The Rhode Island Department of State will immediately begin development of the Online Voter Registration Portal and have it ready for eligible voters to use ahead of the elections this fall. It is expected to be ready within 60 days.