RI State Police wrapping up Mattiello mail ballots investigation

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island State Police leaders say they’re close to wrapping up an investigation into how Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello’s campaign used mail ballots in his recent re-election win, following a GOP complaint to the R.I. Board of Elections.

Maj. Dennis Fleming, commander of the detective division, told Target 12 the Board of Elections’ acting executive director, Robert Rapoza, forwarded the complaint to the state police last week after the board authorized its staff to look into the matter.

Fleming said he expects the investigation to be complete by Wednesday at the latest. He confirmed detectives are conducting interviews related to the matter, but he declined to say who has been contacted or how many have been conducted.

Steven Frias, Mattiello’s Republican challenger, has charged the speaker’s campaign with misusing mail ballots based in part on the account of a Cranston voter who said he felt intimidated when a Mattiello volunteer brought a mail ballot to his house and he filled it out for Frias; Mattiello’s campaign has said the ballot was properly handled.

Frias confirmed the state police interviewed him last week.

Lt. Col. Joseph Philbin told Target 12 it’s “very common” for the state police to be involved in reviewing any allegations of ballot tampering or voter fraud that make their way to the Board of Elections.

“It’s standard procedure,” Philbin said. “Bob Rapoza is very good at referring things to us.”

The Board of Elections conducted a recount in the Mattiello-Frias race Monday that showed the speaker winning by 85 votes. The election results are expected to be certified next week.

Tim White ( twhite@wpri.com ) is the Target 12 investigative reporter and host of Newsmakers for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes The Saturday Morning Post and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram