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Voting at the Polling Place

Voting at the Polling Place Overview

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In order to vote at the polling place, you need to be registered to vote 30 days before the primary or election. If you missed the deadline, in Presidential elections you may be eligible to vote for President/Vice-President Only at your local Board of Canvassers. Check our President/Vice-President Only Ballot section for more information.

If you were already registered to vote in Rhode Island, but moved and did not update your address by the deadline, you may qualify for a Limited Ballot. See our Limited Ballot Section for more information.


See our Voter ID Section for additional information on identification requirements.

Checking-In (as required in RI Law 17-19-24)

At the polling place the voter must state his or her full name and address to the bipartisan pair of Supervisors at the check-in table. The Supervisors will locate the voter's name and address on a voting list. State law requires that the bipartisan pair of Supervisors repeats the name and address of the voter out in a "loud and distinct voice", in order for any "party checkers", "watchers", or observers in the polling place may hear the name and address as well.

From the voting list, the bipartisan pair of Supervisors will remove a label containing the voter's name and address. This label will be affixed to a Ballot Application. The voter should verify their name and address on the label is correct, and sign the Ballot Application. The bipartisan pair of Supervisors will then initial the Ballot Application, and place the ballot application on a spindle for record-keeping.

If for any reason, the voter's name cannot be located on the voting list by the bipartisan pair of Supervisors, the voter will be directed to the Clerk's table to determine if the voter is in the correct polling place. The voter may have changed his or her address and did not update their record by the voter registration deadline, in which case they may qualify under "fail-safe voting" provisions under state law (see Limited Ballot section). Or, the voter may not be on the voting list for the city/town because their voter registration application was not received by the deadline, so they would need to go to the Board of Canvassers to cast President/Vice-President Only Ballot . Or, if the voter is certain that they registered to vote in the city/town by the deadline, and they are in the correct polling place, they may vote a Provisional Ballot.

Getting the ballot

Once the voter has signed the ballot application, the bipartisan pair of Supervisors will issue the voter a ballot in a secrecy folder. The voter will be directed to the next available voting booth.

Marking the ballot

Once inside the voting booth, the voter makes his or her selections by filling-in the ovals on the ballot next to their choices. A voter may also "write-in" a candidate in any office (except in primaries), and fill-in the oval next to the space in which they wrote-in the name. For referendum questions, the voter must choose either to "approve" or "reject" the question.

Make sure to view both sides of the ballot, as there may be additional candidates or issues on the back side. If you have been issued 2 or 3 ballot pages, make sure you review both sides of all the pages (pages 2- 3 are yellow). You are not required to vote for every office or question. State law allows each voter 10 minutes in the voting booth to complete his or her ballot.

Casting the ballot

Once the ballot has been marked, the voter should place it back inside the secrecy sleeve, and take the ballot over to DS-200 vote tabulator. The ballot must be removed from the folder. The secrecy folder is returned to an election official, and the ballot is inserted into the slot on the front of the tabulator. When the ballot is successfully processed, the tabulator will drop it into the secure ballot box, and the public counter on the tabulator screen will go up by one.

If there is more than one page to the ballot, each ballot page must be inserted one page at a time. When the 1st page of the ballot is successfully processed, the machine will drop the ballot page into the secure ballot box, and the Public Counter will increase by one. However, the public counter will not increase when the additional pages of the ballot are inserted..

If there is an error on the ballot, the machine will reject the ballot and display the error on the tabulator screen. The Warden/Moderator in charge of the polling place will read the error message and inform the voter exactly what the problem is on the ballot. Common errors include:

  • Overvote: occurs if the voter selected too many candidates or choices in an office or question. Each office or question has instructions to "Vote for 1" or 'Vote for 2" etc. If more candidates or question choices are selected than allowed under the instructions for that office or question, the tabulator will display an error. The voter may press "Return Ballot" on the screen and request that the Clerk in the polling place void the ballot and issue them a new ballot to mark. Or the voter may press "Cast" on the screen to override the error message. However, the office or question in which the error occurred will not be counted since it was marked incorrectly.

  • Blank ballot: the voter did not complete any ovals on the ballot. The voter may request that the Clerk in the polling place void the ballot and issue a new ballot to mark. Or the voter may choose "Cast" on the screen and override the error message and cast the ballot as blank. However, no offices or questions may be counted because the ballot was not marked, or was not marked correctly under the law.

It is a felony under state law to leave a polling place with an official ballot. If the voter does not wish to mark the ballot, it must be surrendered to the Warden/Moderator to be cast as blank. Sample ballots are posted outside each polling place, and are also available at the Secretary of State's website.

Each polling place has an accessible voting booth and an accessible voting terminal called the AutoMARK.