In our weekly segments on his WNRI show, John DePetro and I have long been talking about indications that the new method of winning elections among Rhode Island’s dominant politicians appears to involve direct harvesting of votes through mail ballots.
The first red flag was Democrat House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello’s victory-by-mail-ballot in Cranston. The next was Democrat Dawn Euer’s win of Rhode Island Senate District 13, with the help of a paid campaigner who became a notary public in order to generate mail-ballot votes. With no big special elections since then, the indications have been limited to things like Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s attempt at funneling campaign money into Providence and legislation related to notary publics. And, of course, there has been the governor’s furious campaign to raise more money than many people could think to spend on an election in Rhode Island.
Now add this to the list, from WPRI’s Dan McGowan:
More than 2,000 Providence voters turned in mail ballot applications ahead of the Sept. 12 primary, a steep increase from the number of mail ballots requested four years ago.
Kathy Placencia, the administrator for the Providence Board of Canvassers, confirmed Friday there were 2,183 requests for mail ballots in Providence by the Aug. 22 deadline, a 50% increase from the 2014 primary that featured competitive races for governor and mayor.
That’s a citywide increase of 50%, but at the ward level, the increases are up to four times the prior number of mail ballots.
Certainly, it could be that widening availability and awareness of mail ballots are leading people to change their habits. People are increasingly shopping online, after all, including for groceries, and there’s no reason to think waiting in line to vote is an activity that would remain near and dear to Rhode Islanders’ hears if they had a choice.
Still, as we enter election season, this is going to be one of the key areas to watch, particularly as the votes are counted.