2002 No Action
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1995 No Action
July 7, 1997
TO THE HONORABLE, THE SENATE:
In accordance with the provisions of§ 43-1-4 of the General Laws, I am transmitting herewith, with my disapproval, 97-S 349, As Amended, "An Act Relating to Election Officials - Voting Districts and Officials."
Under existing state law, no person can be appointed to serve as an election official in Rhode Island if the person is a federal, state or municipal officer or employee. R.I. Gen. Laws § 17-11-15. This Act seeks to amend this prohibition to allow federal, state, or municipal employees who are over 62 years old and who work less than twenty hours per week to serve as election officials.
By permitting a small defined class of public employees to serve as election officials, while continuing to disqualify all other public employees, the Act appears to be unconstitutional. In Pogany v. Medeiros, 847 F. Supp. 10 (D.R.I. 1994), a previous version of § 17-11-15 which allowed school teachers and Westerly town employees to serve as election officials was found unconstitutional. In that case, the district court found that there was a legitimate state interest in prohibiting all public employees from serving as election officials given the "threat that public employees, who either directly or indirectly are working for a political entity, may be tempted to perpetuate their friends in power." 847 F. Supp. at 11. The court in Pogany, however, found no rational basis for exempting school teachers and employees of one municipality from the general prohibition.
Likewise, there is no rational basis for the class of exempted employees set forth in the Act. There is no rational reason to permit a part-time public employee over age 62 to serve as an election official while continuing to prohibit all full-time public employees over age 62 and all public employees age 62 or younger. Certainly, older part-time public employees are subject to the same political pressures faced by other public employees, and any discrimination on this basis would violate equal protection clause of the United States Constitution. Moreover, discrimination based upon age, as contained in this Act, raises a separate constitutional problem.
For the foregoing reasons, I disapprove of this legislation and respectfully urge your support of this veto.