2008-02-07 / Front Page

Island Board of Canvassers prepares for March primary

By Adrienne Downing

The Jamestown Board of Canvassers is using the focus this week on the Super Tuesday primaries to highlight the local election process.

"There seems to be a lot of confusion about the Presidential Preference Primary and I want to clear up some of the misconceptions to make the voting process easier for everyone involved," Karen Montoya, canvassing clerk for the Board of Canvassers said.

The presidential primary, which will be held in Rhode Island on March 4, is a separate election from the state primary election held in September. "For the March primary, voters will only make their choice for a presidential candidate," Montoya said. "The September election is for any other office which requires a primary election."

Rhode Island is an open primary state for unaffiliated voters. Anyone who declared themselves as unaffiliated when they registered to vote may choose a candidate from any party in the primary. Those who registered as Republican,

Democrat or Independent, however, must select from candidates

in their declared party. "This is important because in Jamestown we have more unaffiliated voters than registered Republicans and Democrats combined," Montoya said.

The deadline, 90 days prior to the election, has passed for voters wishing to change their party affiliation, but Montoya said that anyone who would like to change before the September election should fill out a form after voting in the March election.

Another misconception, Montoya said, is that voters must reregister to vote for every election. "If they have already registered to vote in Jamestown, they do not need to register again to vote in this election," she said. Even if a registrant has been absent from the polls for a while, that does not necessarily mean they have to register again. "There is a process we have to go through before we are legally allowed to remove someone from the voter rolls," Montoya said. "If they have not voted in the last two presidential elections in Jamestown, then they are considered inactive and I notify them of their status. After that, it takes not voting in another two general elections for them to be taken off the rolls, and then they are notified again."

The exception to this is if someone has moved off the island and registered to vote elsewhere and then returned to Jamestown. Another town or state may have sent a cancellation notice to Jamestown and the voter would have been removed from the rolls. "In this case, they would have to register again once they returned to Jamestown," Montoya said.

The Board of Canvassers must have written permission to remove someone from the rolls. "This is why at any one time our rolls are about 10-percent incorrect," she said. "Even if someone is deceased, I need written proof in the form of a death certificate or written notice from the state."

State law also dictates that voters must reside at the address they have listed on their registration. "If they have moved, they can fill out a form at the polls when they come to vote, but that really clogs things up. The best thing for them to do is to see me before the election to make any changes," she said.

Voters who will not be at their polling place on election day, based on the criteria listed on the ballot, are eligible to vote by absentee ballot from Feb. 13 to March 3. The ballot must be requested by Feb. 12. Emergency ballots for extenuating circumstances, including illness are available until March 3.

"The state also mandates that we have all three polling places open for any election. The only exception to this is the primary election. We are allowed to combine polling places to save money based on what the state thinks the voter turnout will be," Montoya said. "For this election, we have been allowed to go down to one poll at the Community Center." She will keep more than the minimum number of poll workers, however, to minimize delays.

Anyone interested in becoming a poll worker should contact her. The workers get paid a $125 stipend and are required to take a class.

"The most important thing," Montoya said, "is that if anyone is unsure of whether they are correctly registered to vote, if they are eligible to vote by absentee ballot or if they have any questions about the process, they can call me, email me or stop by Town Hall." She can be reached by phone at 423-7200, or by e-mail at kmontoya@ jamestownri.net.

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