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Voting at the Polling Place

Voting at the Polling Place Overview

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In order to vote at the polling place, you need to be registered to vote 30 days before the primary or election. If you missed the deadline, in Presidential elections you may be eligible to vote for President/Vice-President Only at your local Board of Canvassers. Check our President/Vice-President Only Ballot section for more information.

If you were already registered to vote in Rhode Island, but moved and did not update your address by the deadline, you may qualify for a Limited Ballot. See our Limited Ballot Section for more information.

Identification

See our Voter ID Section for additional information on identification requirements.

Checking-In

At the polling place the voter must state his or her full name and address to the bipartisan pair of Supervisors at the check-in table. The Supervisors will locate the voter's name and address on a voting list. State law requires that the bipartisan pair of Supervisors repeats the name and address of the voter out in a "loud and distinct voice", in order for any "party checkers", "watchers", or observers in the polling place may hear the name and address as well.

From the voting list, the bipartisan pair of Supervisors will remove a label containing the voter's name and address. This label will be affixed to a Ballot Application. The voter should verify their name and address on the label is correct, and sign the Ballot Application. The bipartisan pair of Supervisors will then initial the Ballot Application, and place the ballot application on a spindle for record-keeping.

If for any reason, the voter's name cannot be located on the voting list by the bipartisan pair of Supervisors, the voter will be directed to the Clerk's table to determine if the voter is in the correct polling place. The voter may have changed his or her address and did not update their record by the voter registration deadline, in which case they may qualify under "fail-safe voting" provisions under state law (see Limited Ballot section). Or, the voter may not be on the voting list for the city/town because their voter registration application was not received by the deadline, so they would need to go to the Board of Canvassers to cast President/Vice-President Only Ballot . Or, if the voter is certain that they registered to vote in the city/town by the deadline, and they are in the correct polling place, they may vote a Provisional Ballot.

Getting the ballot

Once the voter has signed the ballot application, the bipartisan pair of Supervisors will issue the voter a ballot in a secrecy sleeve. The voter will be directed to the next available voting booth.

Marking the ballot

R.I.G.L 17-19-1 defines a "vote" as "any mark made with the appropriate marking device within the optech ballot voting area between the head and tail of the arrow on the computer ballot next to the party, candidate, write-in candidate or question, as is applicable, for whom the voter casts his or her ballot...". Once inside the voting booth, the voter makes his or her selections by connecting the appropriate head and tail of the arrow on the ballot. A voter may also "write-in" a candidate in any office (except in primaries), and connect the head and tail of the arrow next to the space in which they wrote-in the name. For referendum questions, the voter must choose either to "approve" or "reject" the question.

Make sure to view both sides of the ballot, as there may be additional candidates or issues on the back side. If you have been issued 2 or 3 ballot pages, make sure you review both sides of all the pages (pages 2- 3 are yellow). You are not required to vote for every office or question. State law allows each voter 10 minutes in the voting booth to complete his or her ballot.

Casting the ballot

Once the ballot has been marked, the voter should place it back inside the secrecy sleeve, and take the ballot over to the optical scan tabulator. The ballot must be removed from the sleeve. The secrecy sleeve is placed on top of the tabulator, and the ballot is inserted into the slot on the front of the tabulator. When the ballot is successfully processed, the tabulator will drop it into the secure ballot box, and the public display counter on the front of the tabulator will go up by one.

If there is more than one page to the ballot, each ballot page must be inserted separately, and one page at a time. For each ballot page that is successfully processed, the machine will drop the ballot page into the secure ballot box, and the public display counter on the front of the tabulator will go up by one.

If there is an error on the ballot, the machine will reject the ballot and print an error message on the paper tape. The Warden/Moderator in charge of the polling place will read the error message and inform the voter exactly what the problem is on the ballot. Common errors include:

  • Overvote: occurs if the voter connected the head and tail of the arrow beside too many candidates or choices in an office or question. Each office or question has instructions to "Vote for 1" or 'Vote for 2" etc. If more candidates or question choices are selected than allowed under the instructions for that office or question, the tabulator will reject the ballot as an overvoted ballot. The voter may request that the Clerk in the polling place void the ballot and issue them a new ballot to mark. Or the voter may instruct the Warden/Moderator to override the error message, however, the office or question in which the error occurred will not be counted since it was marked incorrectly.

  • Blank ballot: the voter did not connect any heads and tails of any arrows on the ballot, or did not mark the ballot correctly. The voter may request that the Clerk in the polling place void the ballot and issue a new ballot to mark. Or the voter may instruct the Warden/Moderator to override the error message and cast the ballot as it is, however, no offices or questions may be counted because the ballot was not marked, or was not marked correctly under the law.

It is a felony under state law to leave a polling place with an official ballot. If the voter does not wish to mark the ballot, it must be surrendered to the Warden/Moderator to be cast as blank. Sample ballots are posted outside each polling place, and are also available at the Secretary of State's website.

Each polling place has an accessible voting booth and an accessible voting terminal called the AutoMARK.