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Long slogs at polling places have led many states to allow voters to cast ballots before Election Day. Early voting is supposed to lead to shorter lines on Election Day and encourage more people to vote.
State Rep. Christopher R. Blazejewski, D-Providence, has submitted a bill that would allow early voting in Rhode Island.
Blazejewski’s bill would allow people to vote in person at locations that would be determined by local elections boards. The early voting period would start 21 days before a general election. Early voting would conclude the Saturday before Election Day. There would be no early voting during special elections.
For a primary, the early voting period would start 13 days before Election Day and conclude the Saturday before. The early votes would not be counted until the polls close.
Blazejewski said early voting would better suit voters’ schedules, providing more hours to vote, including weekends.
In an interview, he said the right to vote is fundamental for a democracy and that early voting broadens people’s access to the polls. He cited long lines at the polls in Providence during the November 2012 election, including waits of more than three hours at the Juanita Sanchez Complex polling place.
In a news release, Blazejewski said: "In 32 other states and Washington D.C., they [voters] can avoid the wait by voting before Election Day."
Do that many states let people vote early? We contacted Blazejewski and ultimately heard from Larry Berman, House spokesman, who said the lawmaker’s source was the National Conference of State Legislatures.
PolitiFact Rhode Island had already been checking around, including the National Conference of State Legislatures’ website.
The site does indeed list the 32 states, and the District of Columbia, as allowing early in-person voting as of Sept. 4. In those places, "any qualified voter may cast a ballot in person during a designated period prior to election day" with "no excuse or justification" required to vote early, the NCSL says.
Two other states -- Washington and Oregon -- have voting only by mail.
Wendy Underhill, a senior policy specialist with the NCSL, said in an interview that the number of states with early voting has not changed since September.
Some states allow voting as early as 45 days before the election and as late as the Friday before the election. Average starting time for early voting in the 32 states was 22 days prior to the Election Day.
State Rep. Christopher R. Blazejewski, D-Providence, said: "In 32 other states and Washington D.C., they [voters] can avoid the wait by voting before Election Day."
The National Conference of State Legislatures’ figures support Blazejewski’s statement as far as in-person voting and we could find no other figures that showed a lower tally. There are two other states that have all mail-in voting
We rate the statement True.
(If you have a claim you’d like PolitiFact Rhode Island to check, e-mail us at [email protected]. And follow us on Twitter: @politifactri.)
National Conference of State Legislatures, "Absentee and Early Voting," Sept. 4, 2012, accessed on March 6, 2013
House bill 5565, prime sponsor state Rep. Christopher R. Blazejewski, D-Providence, introduced on Feb. 28, 2013
News release, state Rep. Blazejewski, Feb. 28, 2013, accessed on March 6, 2013
CNN, "By the numbers: early voting," Oct. 25. 2012, accessed on March 7, 2013
Interview, state Rep. Blazejewski, March 7, 2013
Interview, Wendy Underhill, senior policy specialist, National Conference of State Legislatures, March 7, 2013
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