For this inconsequential election, Rhode Island’s election officials decided to spend $458,000 sending out mail ballot applications to 779,463 voters, including those listed as inactive. In response, about 150,000 mail ballot applications were received by the Board of Elections (BOE). However, other completed applications were lost. Although mail ballot applications had come in weeks earlier, many voters did not start receiving their ballots until about a week before the election. As a result, some voters got their mail ballots with little time to send them back. So far, the BOE has received about 92,000 mail ballots. The results of this election may not be known for weeks. The Rhode Island Republican Party has the following comments:

“While we won’t know the results of this flawed election any time soon, we already know this election has resulted in waste and incompetence.

In April, we stated that a predominantly mail ballot election was unnecessary because by June public health restrictions would likely be relaxed. Instead, the Secretary of State went ahead and wasted taxpayer money by sending mail ballot applications to every voter, even inactive voters, although most voters were not interested in this primary election. Because of the push to vote in this election by mail, more people than usual voted by mail. This, in turn, is likely causing the BOE to spend large amounts of money on temporary staff to process this influx of mail ballots. Never in Rhode Island history was so much money wasted on such an unimportant election.

This election also made history for how incompetently it was handled. For the Secretary of State’s vendor to wait until about two weeks before the election to send out any mail ballots was incompetence. Requiring mail ballot applications to be sent to the BOE rather than directly to the local Boards of Canvassers also added to the delay in sending out mail ballots. Furthermore, it was unrealistic to think Rhode Island’s election system was equipped to seamlessly process about 150,000 mail ballot applications in just a few weeks when it is not designed for it. About as many mail ballot applications were requested in this election as in all the Rhode Island elections for the last ten years combined. Many local Boards of Canvassers were probably overwhelmed trying to process all these applications, which led to even more mistakes being made.

If this election was supposed to show us how Rhode Island could easily conduct a predominately mail ballot election in a November, it failed. Instead, it showed how waste and incompetence leads to lost applications, late mail ballots, and voter confusion. If this is what happens in an essentially uncontested election involving 150,000 mail ballots, one can imagine what would happen during a heated campaign with 400,000 mail ballots floating around.

We encourage Republicans to vote, if they can, at the polls in November, and avoid worrying about their ballot getting lost somewhere in Rhode Island’s faulty mail ballot system. We also repeat what we have stated before. In early November 1918, right after the Spanish Flu outbreak subsided, Rhode Island conducted a general election without any significant changes to its election process. We expect the upcoming November election will be conducted in a manner fully consistent with state election law, and we are prepared to assert our legal rights to ensure it is.”

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