(The Center Square) – A bill allowing independent votes to disaffiliate after primary voting is headed to the Rhode Island Senate.
The House of Representatives on Thursday passed a House Bill 5612, introduced by Rep. Patricia A. Serpa, D-West Warwick, that would permit voters registered as independent to file paperwork that would automatically allow them to disaffiliate immediately after casting their vote.
Current Rhode Island law, according to a release, mandates that a voter that is not affiliated with any political party that voter is automatically registered as being affiliated with that party.
“Most voters in Rhode Island are unaffiliated with any political party, but often choose to vote in party primaries, whether it be Democrat or Republican,” Serpa said in a statement. “And as voter history suggests, most of those voters would prefer to remain unaffiliated after the primary is over.
“This bill would allow those unaffiliated voters to remain unaffiliated without having to fill out a form after the election. That not only makes it easier for the voters, but for election officials who spend hundreds of hours after every election cycle processing thousands of these forms.”
The legislation, according to a release, is aimed at solving a problem with mail ballots. At the primary election, a person voting in-person can sign the disaffiliation document in person. The form, however, is not available to those voting by mail, and often find themselves assigned to a party after casting their ballot.
“About 46% of Rhode Island voters choose to remain unaffiliated,” Serpa said in a statement. “And with the growing trend of mail ballots, and the growing use of provisional ballots from voters who didn’t realize they had to fill out a form to remain unaffiliated, this will help us to stop disenfranchising voters who simply forgot to fill out some paperwork after the last primary election.”
The Senate will take up the bill, while also considering similar legislation in Senate Bill 115.