Ballot Integrity, Not Unrealistic Deadlines, Needs to be Paramount for RI BOE

Update: The RI BOE voted 5-2 today to review all of the signatures on Sabina Matos’ nomination papers. Ms. Matos is on the Democrat primary ballot for the RI CD1 special election and ballots have already been mailed out to military and out-of-country voters. It is unclear if the outcome of the BOE’s review would result in her being disqualified from the ballot.

It is important to note up front that the Rhode Island Board of Elections was in a no-win situation. Either properly certifying candidates for the ballot or meeting process deadlines: they were not going to be able to execute at least one aspect of their important role in finalizing the ballot for Rhode Island’s CD1 special election.

Three local boards of canvassers, followed swiftly by WPRI and NBC 10, had discovered multiple fraudulent signatures on the nomination papers of Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos.

The schedule was too tight for the BOE to properly address this disturbing discovery within the requisite timeframe, as the Chairwoman noted to NBC 10.

“The time between certification and the printing of the ballots is insufficient to address any potential irregularities in nomination papers,” Board of Elections Chairwoman Diane Mederos said.

Correct.  Faced with this quandary, however, the BOE chose to comply with a too-tight deadline rather than ensure signature and ballot integrity for the CD1 special election.  Despite doubts about the validity of Matos’ 728 “certified” signatures, the BOE declined to review them and declared that she had qualified for the ballot.

This was exactly the wrong priority.  Integrity of the ballot and properly qualifying candidates for it is paramount for the BOE and for Rhode Island.

They needed to stop everything and check that Matos had enough valid signatures to be on the ballot.  Yes, they almost certainly would have missed the deadline to print ballots.  Yes, the dates of the primary and general election would almost certainly have to have been pushed back.

And when they were criticized for this, their response should have been, “Step off.  We did our job.  Rhode Islanders and CD1 voters can have full confidence that all candidates on the ballot have properly qualified.  Don’t look to us about unrealistic deadlines.  Get with whoever set them.”

The BOE is meeting now for a second time post-certification about the Matos nomination papers. They also need to re-examine and refocus on their primary mission.  It is NOT to comply with unrealistic timeframes.

Image: Sample Ballot from RI Secretary of State’s website

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