Providence Mayor tries to Prevent Voting by Elderly Couple
Released on = November 9, 2006, 7:41 pm
Press Release Author = Press Dept
Industry = Government
Press Release Summary = Senior Citizen and Disability issue. Providence Mayor Cicilline tried to prevent voting assistance entitled to elderly couple pursuant to RI State Law and invoked the Police power in claimed violation of civil rights.
Press Release Body = (Providence, Rhode Island, USA) During the recent election, Mayor David N. Cicilline threatened the Democratic Ward 8 Chairman Wilbur W. Jennings Jr. with arrest for trying to assist an elderly couple in casting their vote at their request pursuant to State Law. Providence Police arrived shortly afterward and ordered Jennings from the premises. Jennings protested, but left under threat of arrest.
The incident began when an elderly pair of voters went to vote at the Ward 8 Fire Station and asked for assistance. Jennings offered to assist and asked Warden Ed Hicks about the proper procedure. Hicks provided the standard "voter assist" form to be filled out and then signed by the voter. There is also a section to be filled out by the person assisting.
Mayor Cicilline happened to be inside the poll greeting poll workers and his city employees who had the day off but were there working on behalf of the mayor's campaign and his selected council candidate Leon F. Tejada. When made aware of the assist, he took loud verbal exception to Jennings helping the elderly voters.
Cicilline first told Jennings that he "could not vote for another voter" and then took his objection to Warden Hicks. When it became clear that Hicks was immovable, Cicilline loudly told Jennings that if he voted for the voter, that he (Cicilline) would challenge the election results, and have him arrested if he did.
The growing crowd of onlookers went outside following Jennings and Mayor Cicilline who continued their loud discussion. Onlookers say that the Mayor's driver called the Providence Police. When they arrived, the conversation was over and Jennings was a good distance away from the Mayor but had not yet returned inside to the poll. When police arrived, they first spoke with the Mayor, and then immediately went over and ordered Jennings to leave the area. Jennings protested but left under threat of arrest.
"This was unlawful, and a misuse of the power of his office," an angry Jennings said this morning. "Mayor Cicilline first tried to disenfranchise senior citizens who needed help voting in a Federal Election, and then caused Providence Police to violate my civil rights by ordering me to leave under threat of arrest solely on the word of the city Mayor." "The warden, who is actually a state official, had already explained to the Mayor that there IS a provision for this in the law," Jennings went on, "but the Mayor would not hear it." "That elderly couple had requested assistance, and the special voting machine for people with disabilities did not work. Things may go wrong with machines, but the Mayor's actions are a direct insult and outrage to every senior citizen and anyone with disabilities who may now feel reluctant to vote because they need help at the polls," Jennings concluded.
Jennings will be filing a formal complaint concerning the incident this week.