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Supreme Court approves Rhode Island mail-in voting changes

by Kyle Ziemnick
Posted 8/13/20, 04:01 pm

WASHINGTON—Rhode Island previously required two witnesses to certify mail-in ballots. But due to the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Gina Raimondo, a Democrat, eliminated that rule for the state’s presidential primary in June. The U.S. Supreme Court in a 6-3 decision on Thursday rejected an appeal by the Republican National Committee to reinstate the requirement. Republicans contended that ballot witnesses stopped potential fraud, while Democrats and the American Civil Liberties Union argued it was impractical during the pandemic. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch would have kept the regulation in place.

What was the reasoning? A one-page, unsigned order said no state officials opposed lifting the rule and Rhode Island had already stopped enforcing it. The state already allows mail-in voting for any reason, and state officials will send out ballots for a September state primary election on Thursday.

Dig deeper: Read my analysis in The Stew of the battle over the U.S. Postal Service and mail-in balloting.

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Kyle Ziemnick

Kyle is a WORLD DIgital news reporter. He is a World Journalism Institute and Patrick Henry College graduate. Kyle resides in Purcellville, Va. Follow him on Twitter @kylezim25.

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  •  West Coast Gramma's picture
    West Coast Gramma
    Posted: Fri, 08/14/2020 11:33 am


    Mail-in voting is inevitable, just as online banking and paying of bills. I remember a time when we used to walk down to the electric company to pay our bill in person. To not permit mail-in voting is not much different than insisting that someone take a horse and buggy to the ballot box rather than drive their car. The White House discussion should be about ways to increase the security of mail-in voting and how to help states financially and technologically switch from an outdated system to a newer one. Also, news at election time is often filled with reports of strong armed people standing around election centers for the purpose of intimidation. In some places, voting centers are inconveniently placed in order to discourage those of one party or another from voting. Mail-in voting is the future of a greater America. Why not start now building the new system in the most efficient, safest way possible? Check out the states who successfully use such a system already.

    Posted: Fri, 08/14/2020 06:28 pm

    The headline is false. The Supreme Court did not decide on allowing mail-in ballots in Rhode Island. The decision was on allowing the elimination of witness signatures to certify mail-in ballots in Rhode Island. There's a vast difference.

    Also, for voters in Rhode Island to vote by mail-in ballots:
    * the voter must register
    * then the registered voter must submit an application for the mail-in ballot

    Verification is done twice: (1) Signatures are compared between the registration and the ballot application. (2) Signatures are compared between the application and the Voter's Mail Ballot Certificate envelope.

    This is quite different from the universal mail-in voting proposed by some people. Also, I like having a choice: Though I have needed to vote by absentee ballot (that was mailed in) in the past, I prefer to vote in-person at a polling place. May we continue to have choices -- including mail-in voting for those who choose to do so.

  • Big Jim
    Posted: Sat, 08/15/2020 03:22 am

    Thanks for the clarification, Hannah.

  • Web Editor
    Posted: Sat, 08/15/2020 10:25 am

    We have updated the headline to more accurately describe what the article reports.

    Posted: Sat, 08/15/2020 11:53 pm