What you need to know about Primary Day

By: - September 4, 2023 5:00 am

Under state law, a candidate can request a recount if they are trailing by 2% or 200 votes (whichever is less) in races in which fewer than 20,000 votes were cast. (Getty image)

Hiya, I’m Christopher Shea and I will be your guide for the special primaries in Rhode Island Tuesday. Here’s the 4-1-1 on what you need to know about when to cast a ballot and where in the 401.

When are polls open?

7 a.m. to 8 p.m. If you are waiting in line at 8 p.m., you will be able to vote. If you plan to cast an early ballot, however, you only have until 4 p.m. 

For most municipalities, in-person early voting will be held at the local Board of Canvassers, which is typically at town/city hall. Early voting locations can be found here.

How do I find my polling site?

Easy! Voters can find their polling place online here.

Who’s running?

Democratic voters in Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District will choose between: Walter Berbrick, Allen Waters, Spencer Dickinson, Aaron Regunberg, Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, Woonsocket Rep. Stephen Casey, Gabe Amo, Providence City Councilman John Gonçalves, Stephanie Beauté, Pawtucket Sen. Sandra Cano, and Providence Sen. Ana Quezada.

A lottery determined the order in which Democratic candidates appear on the ballot. The Rhode Island Democratic Party did not endorse any candidate.

(Canva image)

Don Carlson, who dropped out of the race on Aug. 27, also appears on the ballot. The state’s Board of Elections is having canvassers put signs up to alert voters about Carlson’s withdrawal.

On the Republican ballot, voters will choose between Gerry Leonard, the Rhode Island Republican Party’s endorsed candidate, and former Middletown Town Councilwoman Terri Flynn.

The 1st Congressional District includes: Barrington, Bristol, Central Falls, Cumberland, East Providence, Jamestown, Lincoln, Little Compton, Middletown, North Providence, Newport, Pawtucket, Portsmouth, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Tiverton, Warren, and Woonsocket. 

The district also covers parts of Providence, including the East Side and South Side, and a portion of downtown. 

Voters in Providence’s Smith Hill neighborhood, half of which lies within the 1st Congressional District, will also vote in the primary to fill the State Senate seat of the late Maryellen Goodwin.

Four Democrats are on the ballot: Providence Rep. Nathan Biah; Jake Bissaillon; Mario Mancebo; and Michelle Rivera.

Niyoka Powell, who serves as second vice-chair for the Republican Party of Rhode Island, is the sole GOP candidate in the State Senate race.

The town of Foster has a primary election for the race to fill one open seat on the Town Council.

Foster Republicans will choose between former Planning Board member Ron Cervasio and Foster Center Volunteer Fire Company Treasurer Catherine Bay. The winner will face off against former Town Councilor Cheryl Hawes, who is running unopposed on the Democratic ballot, in the Oct. 3 general election.

Do I need to show ID at the polls?


The following is accepted as a valid form of identification:

  • Rhode Island driver’s license/permit 
  • U.S. passport 
  • ID card issued by any federally recognized tribal government 
  • ID card issued by an educational institution in the U.S.
  • U.S. military ID card 
  • ID card issued by the U.S. government or State of Rhode Island (RIPTA bus pass, etc.)
  • Government issued medical card
  • RI Voter ID card

IDs must be valid and not have expired more than six months prior to voting, but do not need to have your current address. Driver’s privilege cards or permits will not be accepted at the polls.

If you do not bring an acceptable photo ID to the polls, you may cast a provisional ballot. Provisional ballots will then be returned to the local Board of Canvassers where election officials will determine if you have already cast a mail ballot or if the provisional ballot should be counted. 

An official ballot drop box is shown across from Town Hall on the Little Compton Town Common with the United Congregational Church of Little Compton in the background. (Janine L. Weisman/Rhode Island Current)

I got a mail-in ballot, but it’s Labor Day. Now what?

Don’t fret, if you have your mail-in ballot, you have until 8 p.m. Tuesday to drop it off at your local Board of Canvassers or at designated drop-boxes in your municipality. A list of dropbox sites can be found here

Any person who applied for a mail ballot and attempts to vote at a polling place on Election Day will have to cast a provisional ballot.

Remember: Voting more than once is a felony.

Meet the candidates running for Rhode Island’s open 1st Congressional District seat

I am a Republican but would like to vote in the Democratic primary. Is it too late? 

Yes. Because Rhode Island operates on a closed primary, if you are affiliated with a specific political party, you may only vote in that party’s election. The deadline to unaffiliate from a specific party was Aug. 6.

I am an independent. How do I vote?

Unaffiliated voters can vote in either party’s primary, but automatically become affiliated with either the Democrats or Republicans for that election.

Independents can change their status back to unaffiliated by completing a form either before leaving the polls or at a later date.

How many voters are eligible to vote in Tuesday’s primaries?

A total of 375,181 Rhode Islanders are eligible to vote in the races for 1st Congressional District, Senate District 1, and Foster Town Council, according to the Rhode Island Secretary of State’s Office.

In the 1st Congressional District, there are 363,316 eligible — with 7,906 who can cast ballots in both the congressional race and Senate District 1 election. Overall, Senate District 1 has 15,881 eligible voters (remember, Providence’s Smith Hill neighborhood is split by the congressional line).

Foster, meanwhile, has 3,890 eligible voters.

Any cool tools I can use to follow the voter turnout?

Yes! The Secretary of State’s Office has this nifty Voter Turnout Tracker data visualization tool that tracks how many votes have been cast in every Rhode Island municipality, down to the precinct level. Pretty nifty, right?

This story has been updated to include corrected numbers on voter breakdowns in CD1 and Senate District 1.


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Christopher Shea
Christopher Shea

Christopher Shea covers politics, the criminal justice system and transportation for the Rhode Island Current.