Rhode Island Resources for Voters with Disabilities

What are my rights as a voter with a disability in Rhode Island?

In Rhode Island, you have the right to the following as protected by federal law. Election staff must respect these rights:

  • Accessible voter registration
  • Accessible polling places
  • Policies and procedures that do not discriminate against you based on your disability
  • Accessible, available, and operational voting systems, features
  • Your service animal to accompany you inside the polling place
  • The right to vote privately and independently or with assistance, if needed
  • Assistance from a person of choice, who can be a friend, family member, or poll worker (but not your boss, union agent, or a candidate unless this person is your family member)
  • Election Staff trained to understand the rights above.

In Rhode Island, you also have the right to:  

  • Keep who you vote for a secret
  • Cast a provisional ballot
  • Vote free of harassment or intimidation
  • Have assistance in the voting booth on Election Day
  • Vote by mail
  • Enroll in the Address Confidentiality Program
  • Have your voting rights restored when released from prison
  • Get a Voter ID that represents your gender identity
Who can register to vote?

To register in Rhode Island, you must be: 

  • A citizen of the United States of America
  • At least 18 on or before Election Day 
  • A state resident 
  • If you are a student, unhoused, a survivor of intimate partner violence with related concerns, or living with a mental or physical impairment, you may still register and vote

In Rhode Island, you may not register or vote if:

  • Have been judged mentally incompetent to vote by a court of law. If your right was suspended due to mental disability and you want to vote, contact Disability Rights RI
  • Are currently incarcerated for a felony conviction, though your right is restored when you leave prison even if on parole or probation
What are my rights when registering to vote?

Federal law requires assistance in registering to vote from offices that provide public assistance or state-funded programs serving people with disabilities. Responsibilities include:

  • Providing voter registration forms
  • Assisting voters in completing the forms
  • Transmitting completed forms to the appropriate election official
  • All aspects of voter registration must be accessible
What are the different ways to vote in Rhode Island?
  • You can vote early by mail, with an online accessible ballot, or in-person at your local board of canvassers.
     
  • You can vote in-person on Election Day.
What are the ways to request a Mail-In Ballot in Rhode Island?

Any registered voter may request a mail-in ballot.

All registered voters may vote early with an emergency mail ballot at their city or town hall in the 20 days leading up to the election day. In-person emergency ballots will now be voted and inserted into the voting machine at the Board of Canvassers. The process now requires emergency voters to check in on the electronic poll book using an acceptable form of photo ID.

If you are permanently disabled, incapacitated or live in a nursing home, you can request permanent mail ballot status to receive a mail-in ballot for every election without filling out another application.

If you are requesting a mail-in ballot from a nursing home, convalescent home, or similar institution, two bipartisan supervisors from the State Board of Elections will deliver you your ballot. They will also help you if you would like assistance to mark your ballot.

If you need assistance with your mail-in ballot and do not live in the institutions listed above, you can request assistance from Rhode Island’s Elections Division at (401) 222-2340 or Disability Rights Rhode Island at (401) 831-3150. You can refuse help if that is your decision.

How is the Rhode Island mail-in ballot process made accessible for voters with print disabilities?

Rhode Island offers an online accessible ballot for voters with print disabilities or who are visually impaired.

  • To obtain this type of ballot, check the box for requesting an online accessible ballot on your mail-in ballot application
  • This option provides assistive technology to mark your ballot on-line
  • You can then download your voting materials 
  • Save your voting materials as a PDF

You can practice using this on-line accessible ballot marking system before you vote.

You have options in returning your ballot by 8pm on Election Day. 

  • You can return your PDF ballot as an email to the Board of Elections by 8pm on Election Day
  • You can print your ballot then mail or hand deliver your ballot to the Rhode Island Board of Elections, P.O.Box 6128 Providence, RI 02940
    • before the 8pm Election Day deadline
    • with the ballot in its official envelope, signed and dated
  • You can drop off your ballot at an official elections drop-box
    • before the 8pm Election Day deadline
    • with the ballot in its official envelope, signed and dated
  • You can drop off your ballot in a receptacle at any polling location
    • before the 8pm Election Day deadline
    • with the ballot in its official envelope, signed and dated

If you are permanently disabled, incapacitated or live in a nursing home, you can request permanent mail ballot status to receive a mail-in ballot for every election without filling out another application.

What accommodations are available for voters with disabilities at polling locations in Rhode Island?

Federal law requires polling places to meet minimum compliance standards for individuals with disabilities. Some of the accommodations are ramps, handicap spaces, cut-out curbs, and handrails for steep curbs. The polling place should be physically accessible for you.

You may vote using an accessible voting machine, ExpressVote, which will allow voters with a disability to vote independently and privately. Here is a demo of how to use ExpressVote at your polling location.

At the discretion of the poll moderator, you may move to the front of a line to vote if needed. Poll workers are trained to allow this accommodation.

Every polling place will have sheet magnifiers for voters with print disabilities.

What are the rules of assistance for disabled voters in Rhode Island?

If you are voting in person, you may request assistance from two poll workers or receive assistance from a person of your choice with the following exceptions:  

  • an officer or agent of your union
  • a candidate on the ballot
  • your employer, an agent of your employer

You and your helper will sign an affidavit of assistance attesting that the assistant is not from one of the above categories.

A poll worker cannot require you to accept assistance.

If you are requesting a mail-in ballot from a nursing home, convalescent home, or similar institution, two bipartisan supervisors from the State Board of Elections will deliver you your ballot. They will also help you if you would like assistance to mark your ballot.

If you need assistance with your mail-in ballot and do not live in the institutions listed above, you can request assistance from Rhode Island’s Elections Division at (401) 222-2340 or Disability Rights Rhode Island at (401) 831-3150. You can refuse help if that is your decision.

How can I prepare to use accessible voting equipment in Rhode Island prior to Election Day?

You can practice using the on-line accessible ballot marking system before you vote.

You can also have a demo of how to use ExpressVote at your polling location.

Please contact your local election official for more information.

Who do I contact if I have problems when voting in Rhode Island?

Please contact Disability Rights Rhode Island if you believe your rights were violated for disability reasons.

You can also fill out a Violation of Civil Rights Complaint Form and submit it to the US Department of Justice by one of the following methods:

  • Online, through the form’s submission process - this is the fastest method.
  • By fax at (202) 616-9881. You MUST include “ATTN: Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Complaints" at the top of your fax submission for it to be processed correctly.
  • By mailing your form to: 

                 U.S. Department of Justice
                 Office of the Inspector General Investigations Division
                 ATTN: Civil Rights & Civil Liberties Complaints
                 950 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
                 Washington, DC 20530

For additional assistance, The National Network of ADA Centers can provide local contact information for other organizations you may wish to contact, including your Regional ADA Center or ADA Knowledge Translation Center, or Federal Agencies and Resources.