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Don't forget: Deadline for primary mail ballots is Aug. 18

Portsmouth registrar’s message to voters: ‘Just stay safe’

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PORTSMOUTH — If you plan on voting by mail in the statewide Democratic primary election on Tuesday, Sept. 8, you have only a few more days to get your ballot application to the Portsmouth Canvassing Authority at Town Hall.

The deadline for all mail ballot applications is 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 18. They can either be mailed in — Portsmouth Canvassing Authority, 2200 East Main Road, Portsmouth, RI 02871 — or deposited in the drop box at Town Hall, according to Jacqueline Schulz, the town’s registrar of voters. If you don’t already have a mail ballot application — for either the statewide primary or the general election, you can print one out here.

In Portsmouth, there are only two primary races, and they’re both for Democratic candidates.

In the race for the District 72 seat for the R.I. House of Representatives, incumbent Terri-Denise Cortvriend of Portsmouth is being challenged by Christopher T. Semonelli of Middletown.

Another Democratic primary is necessary for the District 71 House seat. In that race, John G. Edwards V of Tiverton will face off against Michelle E. McGaw of Portsmouth. The seat became vacant when Rep. Dennis M. Canario of Portsmouth announced he would not see reelection.

(Note: Ms. McGaw is the wife of Jim McGaw, editor of The Portsmouth Times.)

The District 71 ballot will also include 10 names of people seeking five seats on the Representative District Committee: Kimberley J. Waltz, John G. Edwards V, Brittany T. Edwards, Dennis M. Canario, Amy J. Canario, Christopher E. Goulart, Michelle E. McGaw, Maureen Evelyn Molloy Morrow, Glenn Diana Sherman, and Anya R. Wallack.

The races for both the House seats and district committee are for two-year terms.

More seeking mail ballots

Most likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more residents than ever are seeking to vote by mail, including for the primary, according to Ms. Schulz.

“We’ve gotten quite a few already,” she said Tuesday.

However, “there’s mass confusion” about the process, she said. 

For example, some voters believe if they applied for a mail ballot for the presidential primary election, they’re all set for the statewide primary. Not true.

“There is huge confusion about the fact that people have to apply for a ballot for every election,” Ms. Schulz said. 

One even “applies” for a ballot when they vote in person, she said. When you first check in at a polling place and sign a slip before heading into the booth to vote, that’s exactly what you’re doing. 

“They’re saying they are the person they say they are, and they’re the person who’s entitled to cast that particular ballot — ‘I live at that address,’” she said.

Ms. Schulz is encouraging people with questions to either call her office (683-3157), come to Town Hall or go to vote.sos.ri.gov and apply for a mail ballot now for the November election as well.

“There’s a wonderful handbook that’s on (vote.sos.ri.gov) and it’s all about the mail ballot process and it’s applicable for both the September and November elections,” she said.

Concerns over Covid

If you do vote in person for the Sept. 8 primary, District 72 residents will go to the middle school, and District 71 voters to the high school.

Another option is in-person emergency voting. “Even if Town Hall is closed, we’re going to allow that. It begins Aug. 19 and it runs through Sept. 4, and that’s during normal business hours at Town Hall,” she said.

In light of the pandemic, however, Ms. Schulz said she’s concerned about the numbers of people who could choose that option, especially for the general election in November.

“During in-person early voting for the 2016 election in November, more than 900 came to my counter and voted. Right now, with COVID, that’s not a safe option for me or my staff,” she said.

Canvassers will nevertheless follow every safety precaution as directed by the state, she said. “We’re going to conduct this as safely as we can.”

If you choose to vote in person for either the primary or general election, it’s a good idea to be prepared beforehand so you don’t have to spend too much time at the polling place or Town Hall.

“I’m encouraging people to go online to view sample ballots,” said Ms. Schulz.

The safest way to vote is by mail ballot, she said.

“Honestly, I don’t know what November’s going to be like,” she said. “If people have concerns about the U.S. Postal Service being overwhelmed in October or November — and I understand that perfectly — people can come by Town Hall and use the drop box.”

Her biggest piece of advice to voters is, “Just stay safe.”

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