Allan Fung: Repair Rhode Island’s broken election system
The most recent election in Cranston has taught us many things, most importantly that it’s well past time to fix the loopholes in Rhode Island’s flawed election system.
All Rhode Islanders should be deeply concerned that eight cases of potential voter fraud were detected in Cranston, including alleged instances of duplicate voting and non-citizens casting votes. Some of those individuals may even face felony criminal prosecution.
And while some may say these eight instances didn’t impact a race, we shouldn’t wait until that number becomes 50 or 100 before we do something. We’ve seen numerous elections decided by a handful of votes, especially in local races. From a personal perspective, I lost my first run for mayor by just 69 votes. Every single one of our votes counts.
If eight cases were found in Cranston alone, we need to know how prevalent a problem this is statewide. I don’t think anyone would believe that we are the only city facing these challenges.
In Cranston, thanks to the diligence of our new registrar and canvassing staff, these irregularities came to light after our routine reconciliation of the ballots. Rhode Island citizens need to ask what the results of that same due diligence showed in their communities. Unlike 29 other states and Washington, D.C., there is no audit requirement law in Rhode Island. This should change immediately.
Outside of this, I am also calling for some commonsense reforms to make our election system safer and improve voter confidence.
We must implement real-time e-poll book technology at all polling places, including City Hall, for the emergency balloting process, to instantly detect double voting attempts as opposed to after-the-fact reconciliations. The system would also eliminate human error while poll workers check voter status at busy polling places.
Most importantly, this so called “early voting” ballot process that came about from the loosening of the emergency ballot laws needs an overhaul.
The original intent of emergency ballots was to accommodate people with unexpected medical emergencies or unforeseen out-of-state work obligations on Election Day. Now that there’s no standard of proof to obtain a ballot, people have taken advantage of the system, and it’s being treated as unofficial early voting.
If this system is to remain, then all voters absolutely must show photo identification when coming to City Hall to fill out an emergency ballot. If it’s a requirement on Election Day, it should be a requirement any other day of the year.
Lastly, the secretary of state should develop a system to prevent non-citizens, either green-card holders or even undocumented individuals, from registering to vote. The current system of using a driver’s license or ID number when registering is simply inadequate to catch this act of perjury up front.
I raised these and other concerns about poll worker training at Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea’s Elections Task Force meeting. I am encouraged to hear Secretary Gorbea supports the e-poll book initiative, but I hope that she and the Board of Elections will also seriously consider my other concerns.
Clearly, the integrity of our election system is not a partisan issue. Every American deserves fair, open and accurate elections. Let’s roll up our sleeves, fix the flaws and have total confidence in our elections.
Allan W. Fung, the 2014 Republican candidate for governor, is mayor of Cranston.