RI Senator introduces bills to give 17 yr-olds the right to vote, paid time off to vote and repeal Voter ID law

Sen. Gayle L. Goldin today introduced a package of elections and campaign finance bills aimed at improving voter access, requiring disclosure of presidential candidates’ tax returns and making it easier for ordinary people to run for office.

“Democracy, quite simply, is meant for everybody. We should always be looking for ways to make it easier for people to participate, whether by voting or running for an elected position. When we identify roadblocks that keep people from participating, it’s our job in the General Assembly to try to address them, and these bills are meant to do just that,” said Senator Goldin (D-Dist. 3, Providence).

One of her bills would allow Rhode Islanders to request paid time off to vote if they do not have three hours either between the opening of the polls and the beginning of their work shift, or between the end of their shift and the closing of the polls. Twenty other states have laws requiring paid voter leave.

“Voting is an important responsibility, and many people struggle to get to the polls when they work all day. Some countries treat Election Day as a federal holiday, but since we don’t, we should at least ensure that every single voter is able to get the time they need to cast their ballot,” said Senator Goldin.

Another bill, which she has introduced in previous sessions, would repeal Rhode Island’s voter ID law, which requires all voters to present a valid photo identification at the polls in order to vote.

Another bill would allow 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections in cases when the individual will be 18 years old by the date of the general or special election.

“Primaries determine the candidates in the general election. If you are going to vote in the general, you ought to have the same say as other voters as to which candidates make it to the ballot,” she said.

Another bill she introduced today would require presidential candidates to release their personal tax return in order to be listed on the Rhode Island ballot. 

Another bill would allow candidates for office to use campaign funds for child care while they are participating in elections activities, as federal candidates now can. The bill is designed to make Rhode Island campaign finance law mirror a 2018 Federal Elections Commission decision concerning New York congressional candidate Liuba Grechen Shirley that determined that childcare expenses that result from running for office are an allowable campaign expense.

“Rhode Island is better served when our elected officials truly reflect the people they represent, and that includes parents of young children. Child care expenses are a roadblock that excludes people from running for office if their family isn’t wealthy enough to afford them. The FEC recognized that those costs arise because of a candidate’s campaign and should be allowed, so our state should follow suit. Doing so would remove a barrier that keeps qualified people from choosing to run for local or state office,” said Senator Goldin, whose own children are now teenagers who do not require child care. “You shouldn’t have to be wealthy to run for office.”