PROVIDENCE — On the Rhode Island Report podcast, newly elected Secretary of State Gregg Amore made the case for same-day voter registration and answered criticism from General Assembly leaders about the idea.
“The reality is we should do everything we can to make it easier for people to vote,” Amore said. “And one way to do that is to let them register right through Election Day.”
The Rhode Island Constitution now requires residents to register at least 30 days before an election, although people can register on Election Day to vote just for president and vice president. Amore said 22 states and Washington, D.C., allow same-day voter registration.
“Representation is representation,” Amore said. “Whether or not you’ve been in a precinct, a community, a district for 20 years or 20 minutes, the person who is going to be elected to represent you is your representative for those next two or four or six years.”
In a recent interview, Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio, a North Providence Democrat, scoffed at the idea of same-day voter registration, saying, “You know what I’ll do? I’ll get like 10 buses — I’ll bus people in from all over the place, come into my district, register to vote that day, go vote for me, and leave.”
But Amore, a former Democratic state representative from East Providence, said Ruggerio’s scenario “would be impossible because you’d have to provide ID and proof of residency, and if you do not have both of those things, you can’t be involved in same-day voter registration.”
In a separate interview, House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi, a Warwick Democrat, questioned whether same-day voter registration would be a “logistical nightmare” and whether those registering at the last minute could run for office.
Amore said 22 states offer same-day voter registration without logistical nightmares, and he said people registering on Election Day could not run for office. Rhode Island requires candidates to be residents for at least 30 days, and he said he is not proposing any change to that requirement. Also, he noted that candidates must collect signatures and meet deadlines to get on the ballot, and ballots would already be printed on Election Day.
Ruggerio noted Republican Ashley Kalus ran for governor in November after registering to vote in Rhode Island in January. But Amore said, “I think the Rhode Island voters did a good job with Ashley Kalus. The media vetted her and they made a decision. And she got buried. I trust Rhode Islanders to vet candidates.”
Kalus received 39 percent of the vote while Democratic Governor Daniel J. McKee received 58 percent.
On Sunday, supporters of former Brazilian President Bolsonaro stormed the presidential palace and Congress amid false claims of voter fraud in a scene reminiscent of when supporters of former President Donald Trump attacked the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Amore noted that during his inaugural address last week, he talked about democracy being “in the balance” at home and around the world. “One of the reasons I ran for this office was about what happened on January sixth,” he said. “I think that was a group of incredibly misguided people who violated the law, and they should be punished accordingly.”
But Amore said he would not employ the kind of language used by Arizona’s newly elected Democratic secretary of state, Adrian Fontes, who has called election deniers “MAGA fascists.”
“I’m not sure we do anybody any favors by using fascism or Nazism to describe anybody,” he said. “In the (inaugural) address, I talked about our political opponents being our neighbors, our fellow Rhode Islanders, our fellow Americans. I think we should open the door to anybody who’s willing to talk to us and acknowledge some of the things that they may have thought are incorrect.”
To get the latest episode each week, follow Rhode Island Report podcast on Apple Podcasts and other podcasting platforms, or listen in the player above.