Board of Elections adapts to change in leadership, technology for primary

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The voter turnout for Rhode Island’s primary on Tuesday was expected to be very low, but it allowed poll workers and the state’s Board of Elections to adapt to some new changes.

It was the state’s first election since the Board of Elections voted to fire its executive director, Robert Kando.

Kando was suspended in March for failing to follow the board’s order that he sign up for management classes, as stipulated when he was last suspended in January, according to John Marion, who tracks the board’s activities as executive director of watchdog group Common Cause Rhode Island.

Kando has since filed a lawsuit against the board seeking damages.

The board’s chairman, Richard Dubois, said Kando’s position was filled temporarily by Bob Rapoza, who had been serving as Director of Elections.

Another big change on Tuesday was the new electronic voting machines, which read the paper ballots and send the results through a wireless connection. The rollout of the new equipment went well, according to Planning and Program Development Specialist Miguel Nunez.

“It went relatively smoothly, nothing that we didn’t expect,” he said. “Poll workers did have some getting used to with the procedures for opening up, but they were far and few between and anything that did come up we did address very quickly.”New ballot technology

The new equipment was accompanied by “PollPads,” a roughly $200,000 pilot program unveiled in 37 precincts.

“We can track voter turnout and we can track pretty much many different issues at the polling places in real time,” Nunez explained.

The tablets are set to replace the bulky paper binder system currently in use. The board hopes to have them in 10 percent of polling places on Nov. 8 and statewide by 2018.

Nunez said the primary was a good way to work out the kinks ahead of the November election.

“Voters and the election officials both at the state level and the town level, the city level, have had an excellent opportunity here to work with this new equipment and get an election under the belt,” he said.

The board still has 27 mail ballots and an unknown number of provisional ballots to count on Friday, which is also when they’ll conduct any recounts that are requested.

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