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Frequently Asked Questions

(updated September 14, 2012 11:45 AM )

Updates

Registering to Vote and Voting

Provisional Voting

Absentee Voting

State and Federal Elected Officials

Primary and General Elections

Election Results

Nomination Papers

Campaign Finance

 

 

Updates

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How can I stay up to date with the latest on deadline and other important election-related information?

As many other state agencies do, the Board of Elections maintains a Twitter account. For the latest info, follow us there. We are also exploring establishing an RSS feed.

Registering To Vote And Voting

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How do I register to vote?

You can register to vote in Rhode Island by completing a Voter Registration Form which may be obtained at your local Board of Canvassers or the RI Board of Elections. You can also download the form from this site. Many agencies which serve the public, such as the Department of Motor Vehicles, Department of Human Services, Department of Mental Health etc. also offer registration services to their clients as mandated by the National Voter Registration Act. See our Voter Registration section to download the current form and obtain more information on the requirements to register to vote in Rhode Island.

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Can I view my voter registration record?

Yes, you can view your voter registration record at the Voter Information Center.

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If I register by mail, how do I know my registration has been received and processed?

If you register to vote or change your name and/or address by mail or at an agency, you will receive a notice informing you that your registration has been received by the local board of canvassers. (You will also be notified by mail if your registration does not meet the requirements for any reason.)

If the post office cannot deliver the notice to the address you gave when you registered, your name will be placed on the "inactive" list and you may not be able to vote. If you do not receive a notice acknowledging receipt of your registration within three (3) weeks, call your local Board of Canvassers.

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What is the deadline for registering to vote in a primary or election?

You must register at least 30 days before a primary or election in which you wish to vote. In Presidential elections, if you miss the deadline, you can still register and vote only for President/Vice-President at your Board of Cannvassers on the day of the election (R.I.G.L. 17-1-3). See our Upcoming Elections section for relevant deadlines.

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Can I vote on Election Day if I am not registered to vote, or if I registered after the deadline?

In most cases, no. Rhode Island requires that a person be registered to vote 30 days or more prior to a primary or election in order to be eligible to vote in that primary or election. In statewide elections, If you are already registered but have moved to a different address, see our Limited Ballot section for more information. However, in Presidential elections, if you are not registered to vote, or you registered after the deadline, you can go to your City/Town Hall on Election Day and register and vote for President/Vice-President only.

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How long do I have to live in a city/town in Rhode Island to vote there?

You can register to vote as soon as you move to that city/town as long as you intend to make your primary residence here. However, you cannot vote for local candidates or issues until you have been registered at that address for 30 days.

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I moved and never changed my address on my voter registration record. Where do I vote?

You can determine where you vote by viewing our Guidelines for Voter Affirmation, which can be found in our Limited Ballot section. Also, at the bottom of the section you will find a convenient chart with the same information. This information is useful only if have failed to update your address on your voter registration record and the election is less than 30 days away. You should always update your address on your voter registration record anytime you move. You can update your voter registration record by submitting a new voter registration form, located in our Voter Registration section.

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How old do I have to be to register to vote?

You may register to vote if you are at least 16-years-old. However, you must be 18-years-old on Election Day in order to vote.

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How do I find out where I vote?

You can visit the Voter Information Center to find your assigned polling place. Please note, that polling places are subject to change. Generally you will vote at the same polling place in statewide elections. However, in smaller special elections, you may be temporarily assigned to another polling place due to consolidation. It is advisable to always verify your assigned polling place before any election.

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Do I have to show identification when I vote at the polls?

Beginning in 2012, voters will need to present ID at the polls. There are various acceptable types of IDs. Visit the Secretary of State website at http://sos.ri.gov/elections/voterid/ for additional details.

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What Senate and Representative district do I live in?

These district numbers are shown on the acknowledgement letter you were sent when you registered to vote. If you do not have your acknowledgement letter, call your local Board of Canvassers for this information. You may also visit the Voter Information Center and look up your voter registration record to retieve this information.

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I was convicted of a felony, but have served my time and am on probation. Can I register to vote?

Yes. A referendum question passed on November 7, 2006 election states that "No person who is incarcerated in a correctional facility upon a felony conviction shall be permitted to vote until such person is discharged from the facility. Upon discharge, such person's right to vote shall be restored."

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I am incarcerated in a correctional facility because I was either charged with a felony (but not convicted), charged with a misdemeanor, or convicted of a misdemeanor. Can I register to vote?

Yes. If you have not been convicted of a felony but are incarcerated in a correctional facility, you are eligible to register to vote, and to vote by absentee ballot. See our Mail Ballot section for more information.

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I own two residences in Rhode Island in different communities. Am I eligible to vote in both places for local candidates and issues?

No. You must choose one place as your primary residence and that will determine where you are eligible to vote. Please see R.I.G.L. 17-1-3.1 for the requirements of determining a residence for voting purposes.

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I have a Power of Attorney for my spouse. Can I register or vote for her/him?

No. Each person must sign or make a mark on an application when registering to vote or voting. No one can do this for someone else.

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Do I need to cancel my RI voter registration if I move to another state?

No. When you register to vote in another state, there will be a place on the form to list the previous address at which you were registered. A notice is then sent to the city/town in RI where you were registered, indicating that you have registered elsewhere. The local board of canvassers in the RI municipality where you were registered will then cancel your RI registration. If you like, you may send written notice to the local board, requesting the cancellation of your registration. You can find the address of your local board here.

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How do I cancel my voter registration if I no longer wish to be registered?

You must request cancellation of your voter registration in writing to your local Board of Canvassers.

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I need help when I vote at the polling place. What are my options?

You may bring anyone you choose to assist you with voting except your employer, an agent of your employer or an officer or agent of your union. You and the person helping you will be asked to sign an affidavit stating that you have requested assistance. Alternatively, you may also ask the Warden/Moderator at the polling place to provide a pair of bi-partisan pollworkers to assist you. See the Voting at the Polls section for additional information.

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Can I register to vote as an independent?

Rhode Island does not have an "independent" party. You may choose to register as unaffiliated which means you will not be considered a member of any political party — unless and until you vote in a political party primary. If you do vote in a party primary you will be considered a member of that party and will not be able to vote in another party's primary until you have been disaffiliated for 90 days. You may complete a "Change of Party Designation" form at the polling place after you have voted in a primary, or you can submit a new Voter Registration form indicating your party change. In either case, under state law changing party takes 90 days to take affect.

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Are there any special requirements to run as a "Write-In" candidate?

No, there is no declaration requirement to run as a "Write-In" candidate for any office, including President. However, it is advised that a "Write-In" candidate notify their local Board of Canvassers of their intention to run a "Write-in" campaign. This will allow for local and state election officials to issue additional supplies to the polling place for the handling of "Write-In" ballots. Also, stickers are not allowed to be placed on an official ballot, and could cause damage to the ballot tabulator. Finally, "Write-In" candidates for state or municipal offices are subject to the RI campaign finance laws and must file reports. See our Campaign Finance section for additional information about filing requirements for all candidates.

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Provisional Voting

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What is Provisional Voting?

Provisional Voting is a process to insure that all registered voters are allowed to participate in the election process. These qualified voters will be allowed to cast the same ballot as all others however, the disposition (full ballot, federal offices only, or disqualified) of that ballot will be determined by the voter’s local board of canvassers. The voter may then determine the disposition of their ballot by visiting this website 48 hours after the election or by contacting their Board of Canvassers. See our Provisional Voting section for more information.

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Absentee Voting

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I am leaving the state before election day and want to vote. How can I do that?

You can request that an mail ballot be sent to you at an address out of state or vote an absentee ballot at your local Board of Canvassers before you leave. See our Mail Ballot Section for more information.

The deadline to apply for a regular mail ballot falls on the 21st day prior to the election. If the circumstances that make you eligible for a mail ballot arise after that deadline, you may be eligible for an Emergency Mail Ballot. See our Emergency Mail Ballot Section, or check with your local Board of Canvassers for more detailed information. The deadline to apply for an emergency mail ballot is 4:00 pm on the day before the election.

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I am confined to a public or private hospital, rest home, convalescent home, nursing home or similar institution. Can I vote by absentee ballot?

Yes, you may request an absentee ballot under the state nursing home mail ballot prgram. This is a state supervised program. See our Nursing Home Mail Ballot section for more information.

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I have been hospitalized on Election Day. Is there any way a ballot can be brought to me in the hospital?

Unfortunately, state law establishes the deadline to request a mail ballot as 4 p.m. the day prior to the election or primary. Currently, the Board of Elections is unable to accomodate any mail ballot requests after this deadline.

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I received my mail ballot as I requested, but my plans have changed and I will be home on election day and want to vote at my polling place. What should I do with my absentee ballot?

When a voter applies for a mail ballot, that fact is recorded at the Local Board of Canvassers and the voter's name is taken off the list of eligible voters for his/her polling place. In order to be able to vote at the polling place, you must return the absentee ballot to the Board of Canvassers, or you will be required to cast a Provisional Ballot at the polling place. See our Provisional Voting Section for more information.

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Is there any way I can have a mail ballot automatically sent to me for every election?

No. If you are permanently incapacitated to the extent that it would be a hardship to go to the polling place, you may request that the Board of Canvassers put your name on their list to automatically receive a mail ballot application for a period of 5 years. Call your local board for more information.

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My son/daughter attends a college which is in Rhode Island but not in the town where he/she is registered to vote? Does he/she have to make the trip to his/her polling place on election day?

No. Your son or daughter can apply for a mail ballot which will be mailed to your son or daughter's address at the college or university in Rhode Island or to his/her voting residence.

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State and Federal Elected Officials

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How can I find out who my state legislators and city/town elected officials are?

You can get this information from your local Board of Canvassers. They will also be able to give you the names of your local elected officials. You can also find information on Rhode Island's elected officials at the Secretary of State's Web site or the Rhode Island General Assembly Web site.

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How many delegates does Rhode Island send to the electoral college?

Rhode Island has four delegates/votes to the Electoral College.

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How many U.S. Congressional Districts does Rhode Island have?

Rhode Island has two U.S. Congressional Districts, and 38 of the 39 cities and towns are entirely in one district or the other. Providence is the only community that is split between Congressional District 1 and 2.

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Primary and General Elections

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What type of Primary election does the state of Rhode Island conduct?

Rhode Island has a 'semi-closed' party primary system. This means that you may only vote in your party's primary, but if you are registered as "Unaffiliated" you may vote in the primary of any party you choose. Once you vote in a primary, however, you are considered a member of that party until and unless you "disaffiliate". You may do this by signing a "Change of Party Designation" form at the polling place after you vote or by submitting a new voter registration form at any time. The disaffiliation takes effect in 90 days. If you indicated a party preference when you registered to vote, you may only vote in that party's primary. If you wish to vote in another party's primary, you must disaffiliate at least 90 days before the primary date.

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When does my polling place open? When does it close?

See our Polling Place Hours of Operations page.

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Who chooses poll workers? Who pays poll workers?

Poll workers are chosen and paid by the Local Boards of Canvassers in each city and town. They must attend a training session conducted by the RI Board of Elections.

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Who regulates political signage of private property?

The Board of Elections does not regulate the placement of signange, expect within 50 feet of the entrance to the polling place building on Election Day. Some cities and towns have ordinances in place which regulate any type of signage on private property. You should contact your local Board of Canvassers for further information.

Who regulates political signage of public property?

The Board of Elections does not regulate the placement of political signange, expect within 50 feet of the entrance to the polling place building on Election Day. If a sign is on public property, you should contact the state or municipal agency responsible for maintaining the facility or road. For state highways and roads, contact the Department of Transportation at (401) 222-2450

 

Election Results

When will the results from polling places be available?

In statewide elections, the Board of Elections will usually begin posting the results of votes after 8:15 p.m. and continue to update them approximately every 15 minutes until all polling places have reported. Results for local special elections may be obtained by contacting the local Board of Canvassers.

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When will mail ballot results be available?

In statewide elections, the Board of Elections commences tabulating mail ballots shortly after the close of the polls on election night. Mail ballot results are added to candidate totals only after all mail ballots cast in the state have been counted. It is expected that the tabulation process will continue into the day following the election and the results will be available sometime that day. Results for local special elections may be obtained by contacting the local Board of Canvassers.

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When will provisional ballot results be available?

The Board of Elections commences tabulation of provisional ballots approximately 48 hours following the election. Provisional ballot results are added into the mail ballot totals.

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What are Final Unofficial Results and when will they be available?

All results are "Unofficial" until all ballots have been tabulated. Results are declared to be "Final Unofficial Results" when all ballots have been tabulated but recounts and hearings have yet to be conducted (see "Official Results" below.) "Final Unofficial Results" are expected to be available within 24 hours after the close of the polls. When the results page displays "Final Results", usually several weeks after the election, these are the final certified results.

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When is the election certified and Official Results declared?

The Board of Elections cannot certify the election results as "official" until after all recounts and hearings have been conducted. Generally, due to the time frame permitted by law for candidates to file requests for recounts and hearings and depending on the number of recounts and hearings scheduled, it takes up to two weeks after the date of the election for the results to be certified as "official." When the results page displays "Final Results", usually several weeks after the election, these are the final certified results.

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Will the results of Write-in votes be available?

There are no write-in votes in a primary. The total number of write-in votes cast in the general election will be available as part of the Board of Elections election reporting. However, as the state board and each local board of canvassers must manually determine for whom write-in votes were cast, the number of votes received by an individual will not be available until several weeks after the election when local boards of canvassers report the number of such votes each person received.

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Nomination Papers

Who may sign a candidate’s nomination papers?

Any eligible voter from within the district in which the candidate is seeking election may sign the candidate’s nomination papers. Eligible voters are those persons who are eligible to vote at the time of signing nomination papers. Eligible voters are those persons who have been registered to vote at least 30 days prior to signing a candidate’s nomination papers.

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Who may obtain signatures on a candidates nomination papers?

Any person 18 years of age of older may obtain signatures. The person does not need to be a registered voter or a resident of Rhode Island.

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Who is required to complete the affidavit, which appears on the back page of the candidate’s nomination papers?

The person who obtains the signatures of voters on the nomination papers must complete and sign the affidavit that states: “I __________ (name of person obtaining signatures), of the City or Town of _________ (name of city or town of person obtaining signatures), under oath make affidavit and say that the signers within nomination paper(s) did so sign the same in my presence.” The affidavit must be subscribed and sworn before a notary public.

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If a candidate has other individuals collect signatures for him, can the candidate complete the affidavit, which appears on the back page of the candidate’s nomination papers?

No. The person who directly collected the signatures must complete the affidavit.

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Can a candidate or someone else “supervise” collection of signatures, and complete the affidavit, which appears on the back page of the candidate’s nomination paper? (i.e. being on the same residential street while the “supervised” individuals go door-to-door on that street.)

The person completing the affidavit must be physically in the presence of every person signing the nomination papers. Therefore, the person going door-to door with the nomination papers would need to complete the affidavit.

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Can a set of the candidate’s nomination papers be circulated by more than one individual?

No, because the affidavit which appears on the back page of the candidate’s nomination papers can only be completed by the one person who collected all the signatures contained on it. If a candidate has multiple individuals collecting signatures for him/her, he should create duplicate sets for each person (see question on duplicates in this document).

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Can a voter sign more than one candidate’s nomination papers?

Yes. A voter may sign the nomination papers of more than one candidate.

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Must a voter signing a candidate’s nomination papers be eligible to vote in the candidate’s primary?

Any eligible voter from within the district in which the candidate is seeking election may sign the nomination papers regardless of their party affiliation.

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Does signing a candidate’s nomination papers make that voter a member of the candidate’s party?

No. The person’s party affiliation is not affected.

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If a voter signs the nomination papers of a candidate who is seeking election to an office in a district other than that of the voter’s, will that signature be “counted” as valid?

No. Only those signatures obtained from eligible voters within the district in which the candidate is seeking election will be “counted” as valid.

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If an eligible voter from a Town A signs a candidate’s nomination papers which are ultimately submitted to the Board of Canvassers in Town B, will that voter’s signature be “counted” as valid in either Town A or Town B?

No. Only those signatures of eligible voters in the city or town in which the nomination papers submitted will be valid (i.e. If an eligible voter from Johnston signs a candidate’s nomination papers which are ultimately submitted to Cranston, the Board of Canvassers in Cranston will not “count” that signature and it will be ruled invalid).

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Is it possible to have eligible voters from more than one community sign a single nomination paper and have all the signatures ruled as valid?

No. Only those signatures of eligible voters in the city or town in which the nomination paper is submitted will be valid. There is no validating or cross-checking of signatures among communities or with the Office of the Secretary of State.

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Is it permissible to make copies of blank nomination papers and gather signatures on them?

Yes. Candidates for the legislature and local office may, at their own expense, have nomination papers duplicated. However, the signatures obtained on the duplicated nomination papers shall be considered valid if, and only if, PRIOR to any signatures being affixed, the duplicated nomination papers have been time-stamped by the Office of the Secretary of State or local Board of Canvassers which issued the original nomination papers.

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Campaign Finance

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I am a candidate for public office and understand I have to file campaign finance reports. What forms do I use?

You must file a Notice of Organization (Form CF-1) prior to accepting any contributions or making any expenditure in seeking nomination or election to public office, or upon your declaration of candidacy, whichever comes first. Thereafter, you are required to periodically file reports of campaign funds raised and expended. A campaign finance “report” generally consists of a Summary of Campaign Activity (Form CF-2 ), which discloses total receipts minus total expenses for the reporting period, supported by a Schedule of Contributions Received (Form CF-3), which is used to itemize contributions for the reporting period; and a Schedule of Expenditures (Form CF-4), which is used to itemize expenditures for the reporting period.

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Do I have to file campaign finance reports if I’m not going to raise or spend any money or if I pay for my campaign out of my own pocket?

Yes, however rather than file the periodic pre- and post-election reports, you have the option of filing an Affidavit for Annual Filing Exemption (Form CF-5), whereby you certify that you will not accept more than $100 from a single source in a calendar year, nor spend over $1,000 in the calendar year. At the end of the year, you would file one summary report.

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If I have no funds remaining in my campaign account after the election, do I need to file any more campaign finance reports?

Your campaign account will be closed with the Board of Elections only after you file a Notice of Dissolution (Form CF-7). If you do not file this notice, or if you have funds remaining, you will be required to continue to file campaign finance reports.

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I have a small campaign. Do I need to appoint a treasurer?

Yes. Only a treasurer or deputy treasurer may accept contributions or make expenditures on behalf of a candidate. However, a candidate may act as his or her own treasurer.

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Can I receive a contribution from a corporation, labor organization, or other business entity?

No. You may only receive contributions from individuals, and from political action committees and political party committees registered in Rhode Island.

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Which office handles conflict of interest issues?

The Rhode Island Ethics Commission is responsible for conflict of interest statements. Their office is located at 40 Fountain Street, Providence and the telephone number is (401) 222-3790.

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