PowerPlayer: Secretary of State Ralph Mollis

Monday, January 09, 2012


This week’s PowerPlayer is Secretary of State Ralph Mollis. Sec. of State Mollis was kind enough to chat with GoLocalProv about the new voter ID law and his hopes for the future.

1) You've made headlines recently regarding the new Voter ID laws. Tell us what the thinking was behind pushing for the legislation.

Requiring identification at the polls has been a longstanding belief of mine. It is an issue I proposed as a candidate for Secretary of State, and an issue I was able to follow through on as Secretary of State.

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One of my first official actions was to create the Voters First Advisory Commission and hold public hearings throughout Rhode Island to listen to voters on issues which were important to efficient and fair elections. Throughout those hearings, requiring an identification at the polls was an issue Rhode Islanders felt strongly on and continue to be supportive of as evidenced by a recent Brown University poll which showed nearly 85 percent of registered voters approving Voter ID.

Having a poll worker ask for an ID protects the integrity of our elections and strengthens the public's faith in our election system. The bill I proposed and was passed will be phased in over two election cycles and allows an array of identifications such as a Rhode Island drivers License, provides free IDs to registered voters who don't have one, and was drafted specifically to ensure that no voter will be turned away at the polls for lack of an ID. Our law is dramatically different than the ones in other states. The range of IDs that are acceptable, the right to vote by provisional ballot and and public outreach component make Rhode Island a national model.

2) Another new law you support forces lobbyists to be up to date with all of their report filings. Would you support similar legislation that would require candidates to be up to date before they can declare for office?

Through our actions, legislation and programs, our office provides more information to Rhode Islanders then at any other time in our history. I have been, and will continue to be, committed to making government more transparent, more open, more accessible and providing more access and more information to Rhode Islanders then at any other time before. A major part of that information is lobbyist reporting. It is important that lobbyists are up to date on their reports in order to insure important information is in the hands of the public as quickly as possible. And I can tell you lobbyists agree with the importance of providing this information timely to Rhode Islanders. This law insures it will happen by requiring lobbyists to be up to date with their report filings before they can lobby.

I strongly agree that candidates for public office should be held to the highest of standards when it comes to reporting and transparency, but also understand that there may be a constitutional issue that must be answered before anyone can take any action that would bar any citizen from declaring or running for office.

3) Take us through a day in your life.

While my schedule may vary from day to day, some days begin with an appearance on a morning show or radio interview on a current issue, but most start with reviewing email, reviewing the news and meeting with my senior staff. There are meetings with staff on issues pertaining to initiatives such as Voter ID, legislation, our budget or any of our many responsibilities within our Corporations, Elections or Public Information Divisions. There are meetings with constituents, business or elected officials as well as various events. Of course, the day is broken up by phone calls and various office issues, constituent issues and other matters which occur during the day. Personally, and most importantly, I keep my life in order by always finding time to spend with my family and friends.

4) It's a few years off, but we have to ask. What's next for Ralph Mollis? Is a run for Lt. Governor something you're looking at?

I know it sounds cliché, but I am thoroughly committed to the job people elected me to do and that is Secretary of State. I have been very fortunate to serve the public on a full-time basis and be in elected positions where I can make a difference. When my term is up in 2014, continuing in public service in a manner where I can continue to make a difference would definitely be an option I hope is open.

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5) Tell us something nobody knows about you.

I sneak off to the gym every once in a while during lunch when it's clear in my schedule.

Quick Hitters

Role Model: My father

Favorite Restaurant: Siena

Best Beach: There hasn’t been a bad one yet.

Best Book: Since I always hope that the next book I read will be the best one, I'm going to say "Jack Kennedy" by Chris Matthews.

Advice for the Next Ralph Mollis: Time is your greatest asset and your greatest gift.


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