PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The Rhode Island House will examine the reasons for long lines and ballot mix-ups seen in last fall's election in the hopes of preventing similar problems the next time voters head to the polls.
The House Oversight Committee agreed Thursday to focus on the election mishaps. It will be the first task the oversight panel has taken up in the two years since it last met.
Large crowds of voters overwhelmed one Providence polling place in the November election, leading to hours-long lines and voter frustration. In addition, incorrect ballots were delivered by the state Board of Elections to polling places in South Kingstown and West Warwick, causing delays as officials worked to get the proper ballots.
Committee Chairman Michael Marcello, D-Scituate, said he wants the review to focus on the selection of polling places, poll worker training, the testing of voting machines and the process for distributing ballots.
Following its review of the election, the committee is expected to examine the economic development program that included a $75 million loan guarantee to former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling's video game company, 38 Studios, which has filed for bankruptcy.
Rep. Donna Walsh, D-Charlestown, said she understands the 38 Studios debacle is now the subject of litigation, but that she has questions about the loan program in general.
"I'm not specifically referring to 38 Studios," she said. "...But I think we need to look at that program."
No legislative hearings have been held to date on 38 Studios, which laid off all its employees in May and filed for bankruptcy protection in June. The General Assembly in 2010 signed off on the loan guarantee program that allowed the state's Economic Development Corp. to back up to $125 million in loans to companies as a way to create jobs. The legislation made no mention of 38 Studios, although it ended up getting $75 million of the total.
The EDC in November sued Schilling, other 38 Studios executives and several of its own former officials. The lawsuit claims they knew 38 Studios would run out of money by 2012 but kept that from the EDC board.
Lawmakers on the panel suggested other ideas, including a review of the effectiveness of tax breaks and incentives given to businesses and financial problems at the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority.
Marcello said he intends for the committee to meet throughout the year, and not just during the six months in which lawmakers are in session.
John Marion, executive director of the government watchdog group Common Cause Rhode Island said he's pleased the House Oversight Committee is back in business after a two-year period in which it did not meet.
"It's good to have the checks and balances that were intended," he said.
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