The Newport Canvassing Authority began the meeting just 30 minutes before the city’s final list of polling locations was due to the state Board of Elections.

Multiple polling locations were up for discussion, including the Park Holm Senior Center in the city’s North End neighborhood. The Canvassing Authority’s proposed alternate polling location, Pell Elementary School, is less than a quarter-mile away.

Several locals voiced concerns that the new polling location, which was used in the September primary, is farther from a public transit line. Others said the change could confuse nearby voters many of whom are low-income or people of color.

“There’s a lot of Brown and Black communities that are being voter-suppressed, and I really don’t feel like my community should be one of them,” said Newport resident Natalie Harris. “This is a high-density area. We want as many voter polls open as we can to increase the safety at all of the polls.”

David Roderick, the chair of the Canvassing Authority and former mayor of Newport, said the state Board of Elections directed Newport to open the Park Holm polling place for November’s election. But he believes the location would be too small and unsafe for voters and poll workers on Election Day.

“If the Board of Elections says no and demands that we open this unsafe place, then we shall do that,” said Donato D’Andrea, another member of the Canvassing Authority. “And if that means we have to have people standing outside in the chilly, or cold, or snowy, or rainy weather, because they won’t all fit in the place well that will now then be the responsibility of the Board of Elections and not the Canvassing Authority.”

The Canvassing Board also plans to move polling at Donovan Manor, a senior living facility, to the Edward King House.

Newport resident Phyllis Mulligan told the Canvassing Authority her biggest concern is how the city will notify affected voters before November 3.

“How do we let the voters know where they’re supposed to go? They’ll give up and go home and won’t vote. And that’s a very scary thing,” she said.

Roderick said the Canvassing Board intends to send postcards informing voters of the changes in polling locations.

The Newport City Council passed a resolution after the September primary calling on the Canvassing Authority to develop a communications strategy to notify residents of all polling changes. The resolution also urged members to consider "the transportation and mobility concerns" of residents when selecting polling locations for November’s general election.


Antonia Ayres-Brown is the Newport reporter for The Public’s Radio. She can be reached at antonia@thepublicsradio.org