‘Early voting’ online post leads to some confusion in Central Falls

A Central Falls city posting about "early voting," or emergency voting, October 31, 2016. (WPRI-TV)
A Central Falls city posting about "early voting," or emergency voting, October 31, 2016. (WPRI-TV)

CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. (WPRI) — “Vote Early in Central Falls!” proclaimed the posting on the Facebook page for Rhode Island’s smallest city.

“Residents have the option to vote early during normal business hours at City Hall from today until next Monday,” read a photo posted on Monday, October 31.

On the face of it, it sounded to observers that tipped off Eyewitness News that the posting was wrong. Rhode Island doesn’t have early voting, as states like Massachusetts have adopted.

When WPRI.com contacted the city about it, city employees explained the post refers to “emergency voting,” when voters can apply ahead of time to cast their ballots at the local board of canvassers at City Hall if they’re unable to make it to the polls on Election Day. Some towns refer to it as “early voting,” as Central Falls did, according to the office of Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea.

The Central Falls city employees told Eyewitness News they do this every year.

Gorbea told Eyewitness News it’s a helpful option for voters who may be uncertain of their schedules or other obligations: “This is really great for people who are not sure if, on November 8th — ‘life’ is going to happen,” she said Thursday. “You’d just get that vote in early.”

“For whatever kind of reasons you may have, you just show up” to the board of canvassers “and say, I’m not able to vote on November 8th, and therefore I need an emergency ballot, and the clerk will facilitate that for you,” Gorbea said.

Emergency voting is open at city and town halls during normal work hours from now through November 7.

All other registered voters should plan to head to the polls on the 8th.