The issue of voter identification continues to percolate through the political campaign season. It surfaced again when John Carlevale, a Republican running for secretary of state, was interviewed on the Aug. 10 edition of WPRI's "Newsmakers" program.
Carlevale said he supports the state's current -- and controversial -- voter ID law, which requires voters to present photo identification. He contended that evidence for why it is needed surfaced during the 2012 election, the first in which the law was partially in effect.
"Those folks who were not able to show valid ID were given a provisional ballot," he said. "And what did we learn from that? Over 60 percent of the provisional ballots cast in that election were disqualified because those folks were not duly registered as voters."
(Voters may also be issued provisional ballots if they show up at the wrong polling place or didn’t register 30 days before the election. Such ballots are later counted if the voter’s registration is confirmed.)
We wondered whether 60 percent of the folks who got a provisional ballot weren't actually registered to vote.
We emailed Carlevale to ask for supporting evidence. Meanwhile, we called the state Board of Elections, where executive director Robert Kando reported that 2,357 provisional ballots were issued in 2012; 1,189 of those were ultimately disqualified because the person had not registered. That's 50.4 percent, not 60 percent as Carlevale reported.
When we heard back from Carlevale, he reported getting slightly different numbers from the Board of Elections: 2,231 provisional ballots with 1,188 (53.2 percent) not counted because they were disqualified. Kando said Carlevale was given incorrect numbers.
Whether it's 50.4 percent or 53.2 percent, that's well below the "over 60 percent" Carlevale claimed. He said in an email that he had misread his notes, apologizing for the error.
It turns out that the number can vary. In the 2010 non-presidential election, where the turnout was much lower, there were 918 provisional ballots statewide and only 197 of those -- 21.5 percent -- were disqualified because the person was not registered. That was before the Voter ID law had been implemented.
We also checked Providence's numbers. Kathy Placencia, administrator of elections for the Board of Canvassers, said the city gave out 449 provisional ballots for the 2012 general election and 98 were rejected because the person had not registered by the deadline. That's 21.8 percent. In 2010 it was 38.3 percent.
Secretary of State candidate John Carlevale said, "Over 60 percent of the provisional ballots cast in [the 2012] election were disqualified because those folks were not duly registered as voters."
Data from the Rhode Island Board of Elections shows that the actual total was 50.4 percent.
He's off the mark, but close enough to earn a Half True.