Rhode Island voters are deciding this November whether the Democratic governor will get to serve his first full term in office, and whether the Democratic Party will retain its three-decade hold on a U.S. House seat.
Gov. Dan McKee, the former lieutenant governor, narrowly won the Democratic primary. But in the general election, he’s a heavy favorite in the liberal state as both a Democrat and incumbent, who was endorsed by a host of large unions. Republican challenger Ashley Kalus often says it’s time to change direction, while McKee says he helped the state’s economy recover from COVID-19 and can continue the momentum.
If elected, McKee would help his party maintain its control over the top statewide offices. Democrats hold a large majority in the legislature and the state’s current members of Congress are Democrats.
With the retirement of longtime Democratic Rep. Jim Langevin, the state’s 2nd Congressional District is open for the first time in 30 years. Langevin wants Democratic Treasurer Seth Magaziner to take his place, but national Republicans are eyeing the seat as a possible pickup opportunity. Republican candidate Allan Fung, a former Cranston mayor, is well-liked in the district.
Fung says he wants to help bring back that “brand of moderate Republican leadership” that is missing in New England’s congressional delegation. There is just one Republican in the region’s delegation — U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.
Magaziner says voting for Fung will empower House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy and far-right Republicans to adopt extremist policies because Fung won’t stand up to them.
Some political observers say it’s still hard to fathom a Republican pulling off such a big win in Rhode Island. But many others say it’s a tossup, or think Fung could have a slight edge over Magaziner. Moderate candidate William Gilbert is also on the ballot.
Like Democrats nationwide, both Magaziner and McKee have worked to keep abortion rights front and center in the campaign.
Rhode Island’s ballot includes three bond questions to authorize spending $100 million on the University of Rhode Island Narragansett Bay campus, $250 million on Rhode Island school buildings and $50 million on environmental and recreational initiatives. Rhode Island voters typically approve bond measures.
Here’s a look at what to expect on election night:
Polls close at 8 p.m. ET.
HOW RHODE ISLAND VOTES
Most Rhode Islanders vote in person at their polling places on Election Day. However, the state also permits “no excuse” early voting. Anyone may request a mail-in ballot in the weeks prior to the general election and may drop their mail-in ballot at one of 39 drop box sites prior to the election. In the 20 days leading up to Election Day, it also is permitted to vote early in person at a designated location such as a town hall during regular business hours.
First results usually come in about 30 minutes after polls close at 8 p.m. ET, and about 92% of votes are tabulated by noon the next day. That is because Rhode Island election officials are allowed to pre-process and sort mail-in ballots and early in-person ballots that arrive prior to Election Day, making for a speedy vote count after the polls close. Mail-in ballots must arrive by close of polling on Election Day, but mail-in ballots sent from overseas may be counted later if the voter can show the ballot was sent prior to Election Day.
Provisional ballots are tabulated last, if they are approved. A provisional ballot may be cast by a person whose legal right to vote has been challenged, perhaps because they had a signature mismatch, they are not listed correctly on the voter rolls or if their address has changed, if they can provide the evidence that they are indeed eligible.
As of Oct. 28, approximately 34,000 advance ballots had been cast, counting mail-in ballots and early in-person voting, out of 715,000 registered eligible voters The number of advance ballots was expected to rise steeply in the days before the election.
In Rhode Island, the AP is tabulating 88 contested races from 39 cities and towns. These include elections to Rhode Island’s two U.S. House districts, governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, three statewide ballot questions, and elections to the state Senate, state House and mayoral contests.
Democratic Gov. Daniel McKee is hoping to be elected in the closely watched gubernatorial race. McKee assumed office in 2021 after Gov. Gina Raimondo resigned to become U.S. Secretary of Commerce. Veteran Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin of the 2nd District decided not to seek reelection. Treasurer Seth Magaziner, the Democrat, is facing a popular former mayor of Cranston, Allan Fung, in a race that could be a chance for the GOP to flip a House seat in this usually Democratic state.
The state has no mandatory recount law. A recount may be requested by a second-place candidate in close races seven days after the declaration of official results, with the rules for obtaining a recount dependent on the total number of votes cast for the office and the closeness of the margin. For instance, the margin should be under 2 percent, or 200 votes, in races with under 20,000 votes cast, and under 0.5%, or 1,500 votes, for races with greater than 100,000 votes.
The AP may call a statewide or U.S. House race in which the margin between the top two candidates is 0.5% or less, if we determine the lead is too large for a recount to change the outcome. The state has no mandatory recount law. A recount may be requested by a second-place candidate in close races seven days after the declaration of official results, with the rules for obtaining a recount dependent on the total number of votes cast for the office and the closeness of the margin. For instance, the margin should be under 2 percent, or 200 votes, in races with under 20,000 votes cast, and under 0.5%, or 1,500 votes, for races with greater than 100,000 votes.
The AP will not call down-ballot races on election night if the margin between the top two candidates is less than 2% or if the leading candidate is within 2% of the 50% runoff threshold. AP will revisit those races later in the week to confirm there aren’t enough outstanding votes left to count that could change the outcome.
WHAT ELSE SHOULD I KNOW?
Q: WHAT DID WE LEARN FROM THE PRIMARY?
A: For the primary, the state replaced obsolete machines for voters with disabilities. The new express vote machines, in some cases, displayed errors on Spanish-language screens. The secretary of state’s office and the state Board of Elections have since worked together to make sure all of the information will be accurately displayed on the voting screens, and will match the choices that are then printed on the ballot, during the general election.
Q: WHAT’S CHANGED SINCE THE PANDEMIC ELECTION OF 2020?
A: Rhode Island’s governor signed the “Let RI Vote Act” in June, codifying many of the changes implemented during the pandemic to provide voters more options for voting, either by mail, early or in person on Election Day. Prior to 2020, residents voting early used an emergency mail ballot that was processed as such. Now they put a paper ballot into a voting machine like they would if they went to a polling station in-person on Election Day. The state is also using new accessible ballot-marking machines for voters with disabilities.
“It is more important than ever to make sure we have strong leadership on the state level that will fight to protect those rights. Governors are the last line of defense, and as long as I am governor, the right to choose will always be protected, — Rhode Island Democratic Gov. Dan McKee telling voters he’ll champion reproductive rights as he seeks his first full term.
“It’s time to put people over party to help alleviate the pain of families struggling to get by. Together, we can make Rhode Island the most affordable place in the country to live, work, and raise a family," — Republican gubernatorial hopeful Ashley Kalus, blaming Democrats for inflation.
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