Board of Elections casts close eye on East Providence canvassing ops

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PROVIDENCE — As a result of the many missteps that occurred during the Sept. 11 primary, the Rhode Island State Board of Elections plans to keep very close tabs on the proceedings in the city come the November general.

Board Chairman Frank J. Rego said he and the rest of the state body are well aware of the irregularities that took place at the Kent Heights School polling place and in other precincts during last Tuesday's primary election, and the authorities do not plan on allowing similar errors to occur come the Nov. 6 ballot process.

"We responded to the complaints," Mr. Rego said. "That's why we ended up sending someone (a Board of Elections staffer) over to Kent Heights Tuesday afternoon. That's why an East Providence Police officer was dispatched to patrol the location.

"We received a number of complaints about Kent Heights and we're going to examine what happened there Tuesday just like we do for all the polling places in every city and town in the state."

Mr. Rego confirmed the Board was made aware of Republican-affiliated voters possibly casting ballots not just at Kent Heights but also at the city's Riverside Congregational Church and Harbor View Manor precincts.

Tim Chapman, the second-place finisher to Gregg Amore in the Democratic primary for the newly-reapportioned State House of Representatives District 65 seat, based part of his request for a recount of the results on the irregularities.

Mr. Chapman, who lost by 61 votes, qualifies to have a partial recount of the computer cartridges from each of the voting machines in the district's five polling places. He will get his recount Monday morning, Sept. 17, at 9:30 a.m. at the Board of Elections office in Providence.

Mr. Rego said at the moment there does not appear to be enough evidence to determine if the primary election was tainted by what most agree were errors made by the poll workers at Kent Heights and the other locales in East Providence. However, candidates like Mr. Chapman can continue the appeal process all the way to State Supreme Court if they so choose.

"It's not all our call," Mr. Rego said in regards to the extent of the board's ability to rule on the matter.

For the November General Election, Mr. Rego said the Board of Elections plans to maintain stringent oversight of the East Providence Board of Canvassing.

For instance, he said it's likely the Board of Elections will want the floor plan at the Kent Heights polling place reverted to the one used in past elections held at the location when entry was gained from the parking lot instead of an entrance on the adjacent side street.

Candidates and their supporters also failed to pay heed to the mandated 50-foot buffer zone between themselves and the entryway of the building, another thing the Board of Elections plans to address.

Mr. Rego, a city resident who was present at Kent Heights to address the initial complaints, said the congestion at the point of ingress and egress may have played a part in the confusion.

He also said it's unlikely the Board of Elections will allow the Rumford Towers site, for instance, to be used for two precincts in November as it was in the primary last week. Access to parking as well as well entry-exit issues are also of a concern there.

"We're going to review every location to see if we can make improvements, and not just at Kent Heights," Mr. Rego added. "We're also going to keep a close eye on the East Providence Canvassing Department. We're going to work with them to make sure the same situation doesn't happen again in November."

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Mike Rego

Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc., email mrego@eastbaynewspapers.com.