I Voted: 380 Years of Voting in Rhode Island
ELECTIONS ARE THE CORNERSTONE OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY.
Casting a ballot to elect federal, state, or municipal leaders, or to vote on referenda questions, is one of the most direct forms of civic participation. Who was permitted to vote and when is a fascinating, complex story that reveals much about our country and its development. How people voted offers equally compelling insights into the evolution of American democracy. This exhibit looks closely at the methods for voting in Rhode Island over time.
The earliest voting in Rhode Island was done in person, by voice or on hand-written ballots. In 1664 the legislature provided for the first early, absentee votes, permitting the colony’s land-holding men to submit their written votes at a town meeting. These signed ballots would be sent on to Newport to be counted on election day. Pre-printed ballots were introduced in the early 18th century. These ballots, or proxies, were generally printed by political parties and fraud was common.
IN 1889, A NEW ERA FOR ELECTIONS ADMINISTRATIONBEGAN.
To address issues of privacy, security and accuracy, state agencies took over the management of elections. Ballots were standardized, privacy measures were enacted, and, in 1936, Rhode Island became the first state to use voting machines in every district.
Today, elections in Rhode Island are a collaboration between the Elections Division at the Department of State, the State Board of Elections, and local cities and towns. This collaboration ensures that voters have the information they need and better access to cast a ballot on election day. Thanks to activism and technological advances, today more Rhode Islanders can vote in more ways than ever. Take advantage of this. Be a voter!