NARRAGANSETT, R.I. — The Board of Canvassers in Narragansett has started an inquiry into a complaint from Town Council primary candidate Steven Ferrandi questioning the validity of mail-in ballot applications provided through the Maury Loontjens Library.
Ferrandi’s complaint originally went to the state Board of Elections, which referred it to the local canvassing authority.
That board met Tuesday and unanimously directed Andrew Berg, an assistant town solicitor, to begin a preliminary investigation of the matter and report his findings back to the board.
After that, the board could elect to pursue a full investigation, Berg said.
Berg’s initial review of the complaint before Tuesday’s meeting, he said, was that there was not a violation of election laws that would result in mail ballots being disqualified.
“That’s just based on what I’ve seen and some initial research,” he said. Berg then looked at regulations put forth by the state Board of Elections for guidance and spoke to BOE legal counsel, John Anderson.
The regulations give the local Board of Canvassers the power to initiate an initial investigation, Berg said.
“An informal investigation into the allegations, allowing someone appointed by the board to make inquiries and speak to potential witnesses or anyone that might have information,” he said.
The attorney’s work, which he told the board he would expedite, involves talking not only to Ferrandi, but to others that might be involved in the complaint, including library personnel or the subjects of the allegations. Berg described the probe in terms of a fact-finding operation, as opposed to a full investigation with sworn testimony.
“It appears Mr. Ferrandi’s issue is not with the validity of the mail ballots, but more with the validity of the applications to obtain mail ballots,” Berg said.
Ferrandi claims patrons who asked for a ballot application at the library were only given a form for the non-partisan council ballot, rather than also being offered Republican and Democrat ballot applications.
Ferrandi also showed an Aug. 13 notice from the town clerk to the library staff indicating that the library was providing the wrong mail ballot form and an incorrect link to it on its website. The link directed patrons to a page on the secretary of state’s website instead of the Board of Canvassers.
Narragansett’s council and School Committee elections are non-partisan. Candidates who receive the 10 highest vote totals in the primary are guaranteed a general election ballot spot.
Ferrandi, the business development manager for Dayco Products LLC, said the alleged actions could account for his drop from eighth place on primary night to 14th place, costing him a spot on the general election ballot Nov. 3.
Regardless of the outcome of the complaint, Berg said the time window to place Ferrandi’s name onto the ballot likely has passed.
“At this point, it might be too late to give him the relief he’s looking for, and quite frankly from what I’ve seen, I don’t know if that’s an option because I’ve not seen any indication of fraudulent mail ballots. But we need to do some due diligence, and I think this is a good way to approach this issue,” Berg said.
Ferrandi said Tuesday at the meeting he wanted to go over details of the complaint, and Berg, who is acting as an investigator for the board, said he would meet with him as soon as this week to review all information.