The Rhode Island Board of Elections is still counting ballots from last week’s general election, but the data already shows a partisan divide in when voters chose to cast their ballots. Voting-by-mail, which surged in popularity this year because of COVID-19, was overwhelmingly favored by Democrats.
Rhode Island House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi of Warwick has secured the support to become the next speaker, after 53 of his colleagues voted for him during a open caucus Wednesday evening.
Supporters of Democrat Joe Biden in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts celebrated Saturday after he was declared president-elect, following a bruising and months-long campaign against President Donald Trump.
Ten years ago, about 78 percent of voters cast ballots against changing Rhode Island’s formal name. This year, a majority of voters have approved a ballot question to remove the words “Providence Plantations.”
More Election Reporting
One Square Mile: Cranston
Each year, in our One Square Mile project, The Public’s Radio explores a community, looking at the people and the issues that it faces. This year, as the election approaches, we go to Cranston. Historically a politically diverse community, Cranston seemed to us the perfect place to explore the issues driving this particularly polarized election year, through the stories and experiences of the voters.
We invite you to join us.
In House District 15 in Cranston, Republican Barbara Ann Fenton-Fung is challenging Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello for his state representative seat. The stakes are high since the speakership is sometimes called the most powerful post in the state.
After 12 years at the helm, Allan Fung is stepping aside as mayor of Cranston because of term limits. As voters decide who should be the city’s next chief executive, uncertainty surrounding the city budget and school financing are top concerns.
'We’re at a crisis in this country.'
Jon Badway has lived in Cranston for the last 15 years, and is originally from Providence. He’s a retired public servant. The following reflection is adapted from a conversation he had with reporter Sofia Rudin on his way to vote early.
We’re at a crisis in this country.
There are divisions among people across the board, financially, economically, in ideology, racism. I mean, every facet of life — even standing here, there are divisions.
I am for justice and accountability for criminals, yet I see Mr. Trump handing out pardons to his cronies who were convicted and sentenced by evidence — another division.
I see many small businesses closing for good, yet Trump touts a robust stock market for those Americans who own stock, while many do not — another divide.
Trump has fired, I believe, five inspectors general, even the ones investigating whether he’s possibly using his office to gain financially. He’s eroding our democratic ideals of fair and honest government for the people in favor of profiteering from his office.
And apparently the present administration has discredited the news media, except for Fox, of course. And, you know, there are arguments both ways. But so many of the administration’s statements are not founded in fact. They’ve been fact checked many times and proven to be false or, at best, misleading.
This is causing division among people and how they view their daily lives, whether to trust reputable news and information sources or not.
I can’t socialize the way I used to. I have divisions with my friends, differences of opinion.
Mr. Trump mishandled the pandemic from the get-go, even asserting it was merely like the common flu! Some of my ‘divided’ friends say, “What else could he have done?” But his own buddy, Mr. Azar, sent him a memo in January. He was warned. He’s on the Woodward tapes. What else do people need?
Jon Badway | Photo: Sofia Rudin
I hope we heal our divided country on November 3rd, and get rid of the threat Trump poses to our way of life.
And I’m not a Democrat. I’m not a Republican. I’m an independent person. But he’s caused and contributed to this dissent and division among our population. And when you elect a clown, you get a circus.
One of my ‘divided’ friends said “Trump’s rule doesn’t affect your daily life.”
This was last year, before the pandemic. I knew Trump was unfit and self-centered from the time of his announcement as a candidate, and we argued many times about his demeanor and ability.
And now, I put it right in my friend’s face. I’ve said, “Oh yeah? Well, stand apart from me, buddy. Make sure your mask is on, buddy. Don’t go out to eat lunch with me, buddy.”
That’s how it’s affected me.
'This election, I'm considering it life or death.'
Arlett Johnson, 54, has lived in Cranston for the past decade. The following reflection is adapted from a conversation she had with reporter Joe Tasca on her way to vote early.
I always have been educated, since I was a little girl, on the importance of voting. And now, more than ever, it’s becoming more and more personal to me.
This year, this election, I’m considering it life or death. That’s how serious this is. I’ve never been so passionate about voting like this term.
You know, the pandemic hit us. And it affected my family. I lost two loved ones.
I think there’s a lot of people that died unnecessarily. Because a lot of people have faith in [the president]. People believe in him. So people are going to believe in his word and they’re going to follow his directives.
And look what he did. You know, he’s out with no mask. He wants to prove that, you know, he’s strong. He’s basically going against what scientists and doctors are saying. But what are we teaching our kids? Listen to our president?
I’m not saying that he’s all bad, but I think, if he would have handled this differently, I think that we would have avoided a lot of unnecessary deaths.
And we just need a change. Major change.
And also, you know, we need change because we never experienced such rudeness, disrespect, unfairness, and — how can I put it? — embarrassment of the person that runs the country.
There’s been many, many presidents and state officials that I never agreed with, but I always respected them because they always treated people with respect and dignity and like humans. I just want respect back in the White House.
And it’s affecting not only the city of Cranston, it’s affecting the state of Rhode Island. I have family Maryland and Massachusetts, and they say the same thing. You feel the division.
And I’m feeling it. I feel that every day. I feel it at work. I feel it in my gym. I feel it with my neighbors. I feel it.
How so? I mean, I have neighbors that because of differences of opinions, they don’t speak to me now. And I’ve been in my neighborhood for about ten, twelve years. You know, in my gym, people at my job, people that I used to have conversations with and have coffee with, now, all of a sudden you see the division.
Even in church, believe it or not, you feel the division. I’ve never experienced anything like that in my life. You see the division, and the division comes from the head.
'The world is crazy right now, and who knows what's going to happen.'
Dina Vendituoli lives in western Cranston with her husband and step-daughter. The following reflection is adapted from a conversation she had with reporter Joe Tasca on her way to vote early.
I’m afraid something will happen, and we won’t be able to vote on the day we’re supposed to vote.
The world is crazy right now, and who knows what’s going to happen with coronavirus and the whole election. So I just think everyone should go out now and vote in case there’s a spike in virus cases and you can’t go vote on Election Day.
Some people that are running, they’re only running for the parties they’re running for because they think that the city of Cranston is more either Democrat or Republican. I don’t like that. So I vote for a person who is actually with their party rather than trying to be another party.
People try to say, “Oh, well, Cranston is Democrat.” No, Cranston is not completely Democrat. Or, “Cranston’s Republican.” No, it’s not. You know, don’t run for a party that you think we’re most, because that’s the way you think you’re going to win. So to me, that kind of seems like false information.
I mean, all politicians that I’ve grown up listening to have always been a little corrupt, with their own agenda.
But now, more than ever, it’s a lot more divided than it used to be. And I think that’s because of who our president is. If you watch anything on TV you see, you know, how against everyone is against everyone.
And I think the Democrats are so strung up on Donald Trump that it trickles down to the state level, where they’re just trying to make everyone go vote against him, pretty much. No matter what he does. I mean, he could cure cancer and he’d still be wrong.
And I’m not saying I like him or I dislike him. I think I like his policies, and I align more towards him.
I just line up more towards the Republican side because I don’t think everything’s for free. Yes, people need help. But, you know, the world and the city and the state are not handouts. I mean, get off your butt, go get a job and work like everybody else. That’s pretty much how I see it.
So I want the reflection of my city votes to be the same along the whole line, just to keep the party intact.
In the long run, I don’t think that anyone should not be friends because of their political beliefs. I mean, if it boils down to pro-life, pro-choice, and you’re not going to talk to me anymore because I’m either pro-life or pro-choice, well so be it. You’re obviously not a friend anyway.
'This election is not about differences in ideology. It's a difference in morality.'
Saaid Mendoza lives in Cranston with his wife and their two kids. He is a professor of psychology at Providence College whose research focuses on social justice and implicit bias. The following reflection is based on a conversation he had with reporter Sofia Rudin on his way to vote early.
My family’s actually at home. We have two little ones, so my wife and I are trading places. We were thinking about bringing the kids to vote because we’ve done so in the past. But, you know, we just weren’t sure what the temperature of the polling place was going to be, with this election being particularly divisive. Luckily, everything’s been peaceful and easy to deal with.
A two-party system has always been, to some extent, problematic in terms of creating natural division.
But to the extent that we’ve seen it in the past four years, I think it’s at a whole new level. It’s made it difficult for the two parties to come together and meet somewhere in the middle. And I think Biden and Harris can bring us back a little bit to a place of resolution and a place of compromise that hasn’t been seen in the past few years.
Courtesy Saaid Mendoza
For us, it’s been a really difficult four years seeing Trump in office, and seeing his division and his lack of empathy and humility in leading this country.
I’m a Mexican immigrant and someone who has done a lot with his life, and I don’t appreciate the rhetoric that Trump’s put forth regarding the value of immigrants to this country. And the way he talks about women and minorities in general, people with disabilities — his hateful speech goes against everything I believe in.
I think that he thrives on division in a way that is not conducive to leadership and is sending this country backwards. In many respects, the friendships that we would have had with those who voted for Trump four years ago have kind of ended.
And I’ve also been concerned about the inability of his administration to stand up to him. So I think it’s up to us, as voters, to be brave enough to stand up against an administration that has not been interested in anything other than themselves and their own power grabs.
The pandemic has made things worse for everyone. People are under a lot of mental duress right now. And at the same time, people are dealing with a coronavirus in ways that are very inequitable. We’ve seen frontline workers — who are primarily people of color, people who are lower income — being put at risk. And then those are the ones that are often not being represented at higher levels of political power. It’s been a long, systemic form of power that has been primarily run by older white men. And I think there has to be some larger shift, as the country changes, in terms of its representation.
For me, this election is not about of differences in ideology. It’s a difference in morality.
'The level of national debt is absolutely out of control.'
Tadeusz Klas lives in Cranston’s Eden Park neighborhood. He’s originally from Poland, and he says he’s voted in every election since becoming an American citizen in the early 1980s. The following reflection is adapted from a conversation he had with reporter Joe Tasca on his way to vote early.
People that I talk to, they’re all gonna vote. There’s not even one person from my friends that said, “No, I don’t care.” You know, I think there’s a very important debate going on, which is the direction this country is going to turn. Either, you know, continue with Trump’s policies or turn to Biden and have a different direction.
I think this is a very important right to exercise. Voting gives you the chance to express your desire for which way you want the government to go, which way you want the country to go.
It kind of goes back to my young age when I lived in a communist country, which didn’t have real elections. I lived in Poland under communism, and I came here and lived here since the mid-70s. I became a citizen in the early 80s. Since then, I’ve voted in every election.
I think education is the primary issue. Make sure that the buildings are safe. With COVID, the virus, having children attend school in safe conditions.
And make sure that the taxes are reasonable. But to the point where — there was a question on a ballot about creating a rainy day fund. So there has to be some plan for the future.
I worry a little bit about the future of taxes. And it’s a national issue and a local issue. I mean, not a lot of people pay attention to it, but I do.
The level of national debt is absolutely out of control. And we’re adding trillions of dollars to the national debt and COVID didn’t help either. We added about three trillion dollars over a year period.
So now, on the side of the local taxes, they’re going to have to go up. I mean, there’s no way to maintain the same level of taxation for a long period of time, which [Cranston Mayor Allan Fung] did for many years. The taxes didn’t go up under his administration. But whoever’s going to take over, sooner or later, I’m anticipating some increase.
'Honesty and integrity mean a lot to me.'
Steven Ruskin grew up in Connecticut and has lived in Cranston for 25 years. Ruskin works as a radiology technician assistant at Rhode Island Hospital.
I have never seen things more divided politically than they are right now. With every election cycle, it seems to get worse and worse. There is no compromise by either side in fears of becoming weak. “Owning the libs” and “Standing up to Donald Trump” has become more important than doing any work on behalf of those who elected politicians to office.
This political polarization has divided neighborhoods. I live in a working class neighborhood of Cranston, where I am dismayed to see so many of my neighbors supporting Donald Trump, even though in many cases Joe Biden’s policies might help them more. I have also seen division amongst my former schoolmates on social media. We grew up in the same neighborhoods, but some are very liberal, and one person has a personal blog where he has said things that sound very hateful. It got me thinking, how would I react if I saw him at the next high school reunion? At this time, I don’t think I would want to even speak to him. I have deleted and even blocked a few people on Facebook who persist in posting pro-Trump stuff every day, while some of the content hasn’t been fact checked.
My parents were at opposite ends of the political spectrum, but they managed to make things work by not talking about politics all the time.
Maybe we need to get back to those days.
I tend to lean Democrat, but I will occasionally vote for Republicans on the local and state level. In no way could I ever support a man like Donald Trump. I have a four-year-old niece, and two nephews who are 12 and 15. I would not want any of them to grow up to be like him.
Honesty and integrity mean a lot to me, and I feel Donald Trump does not have any. I have already voted for Joe Biden for President. On the other hand, I supported Ken Hopkins for mayor of Cranston, as I feel he has the experience to lead the city going forward.
My greatest hope is that no matter what the outcome of the election is, we can get back to a society where we can agree to disagree again.
We don’t have to be the best of friends with people on the other side of the political spectrum, but we can at least be civil to each other.
How is Political Polarization Affecting you?
“For most of my life I have been an independent and have never placed a political sign in my yard or any sort of bumper sticker on my car, until now, until this President…
I will not give in to intimidation; the ‘Veterans for Biden’ sign will remain on my car.”
“Because our newsfeeds are each uniquely tailored to us, we as a community don’t share as much common ground as we used to. So those on the other side seem more alien and dangerous to us.”
Resources for Rhode Island Voters
August 19 – September 8: Early in-person voting open for primary election
September 8: Primary election
September 11: Deadline to request a Braille or tactile mail ballot for the general election
October 4: Deadline to register to vote in the general election
October 13: Deadline to request a mail ballot for the general election
October 14 – November 2: Early in-person voting open for general election
November 3: General election
- UPDATE: As of October 27, The Secretary of State is advising voters using mail ballots to return their ballots using a secure drop box, to ensure it arrives by Election Day.
- Any voter who is unable or prefers not to go the polls on Election Day can request a mail-in ballot. For the general election on November 3, the application form must be completed and delivered to your local board of canvassers by October 13 at 4:00 pm.
- Instead of mailing your ballot, you can also drop off your ballot at one of these 24-hour locations.
- Track your mail ballot.
- The Board of Elections must receive your mail ballot by 8 p.m. on Election Day.
- Early voting: Here’s how to vote in-person before Election Day.
- To vote in person, you’ll need to bring a valid photo ID. Here’s what counts.
- If you don’t have an ID, or aren’t listed at your polling place, you have a right to fill out a provisional ballot.
- Need more specific help? United Way of Rhode Island and the Secretary of State’s office have set up a Voter Information Hotline. For more information, call 2-1-1 and then press 9, or text your zip code to 898211.
Resources for Massachusetts Voters
August 22 – 28: Early in-person voting open for the primary election
September 1: Primary election
October 17 – 30: Early in-person voting open for the general election
October 24: Deadline to register to vote in the general election
October 28: Deadline to request a mail ballot for the general election
November 3: General election
- Any voter who prefers to vote by mail can request a mail-in ballot. For the general election on November 3, the application form must be completed and delivered to your local election office by October 28.
- Instead of mailing your ballot, you can also drop off your ballot at one of your local election office
- Track your mail ballot.
- For the general election, if you’re mailing your ballot, it needs to be postmarked by November 3rd and it must reach your local election office by November 6th. If you’re hand-delivering your ballot, it needs to be returned by 8 p.m. on November 3rd.
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