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State Returning Board and State Board of Election records

Identifier: C#00167-1636-1771

Scope and Contents

This series documents activities of the State Board of Elections from 1943-1983 relative to conducting elections. Records include state election returns, appropriations of election inspectors, copies of newspaper advertisements, lists of polling places, ballot applications, hearings and protests, sample ballots, receipts of mail ballots, and correspondence.


  • 1901-1935, 1943-1983

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

No special restrictions unless otherwise specified.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright is in the public domain unless otherwise specified. We reserve the right to restrict reproduction of materials due to preservation concerns.

Biographical / Historical

The mission of the Board of Elections is to protect the integrity of the electoral process and to effectively and efficiently administer the provisions of the election laws of the United States and the State of Rhode Island including, but not limited to, the governance and conduct of elections, voter registration, campaign finance, public funding of campaigns and any other duties prescribed by law. The Board is responsible for implementing, monitoring and enforcing federal and state laws as they apply to election and election-related activities conducted in Rhode Island. Additionally, the Board adopts rules and regulations and issues directives as it deems necessary to carry out the purpose and objectives of the election and campaign finance laws of Rhode Island.

In 1901, a State Returning Board was established to collect, count, and tabulate votes. The board was also responsible for keeping records of vote outcomes and ensuring that outcomes were published in local newspapers or other publications. The duties and responsibilities would change little over the next century.

Before the State Returning Board was formed, the Secretary of State was in charge of moderating the voting process and ensuring the results were given to the general assembly so that election results could be made public.

In 1935, per PL 1935, Chapter 2195, the use of voting machines was regulated and a board was formed to oversee the administration and operation of said machines. That same year, in PL 1935, Chapter 2188, the Board of Vote Tabulation was established as an official governmental body under the Department of State. Per the aforementioned legislation, all duties of the former State Returning Board were transferred to the Board of Vote Tabulation, as well as new responsibilities involving the administration of voting machines.

A year later, as part of a reorganization of Rhode Island state government in 1936, the Board of Vote Tabulation was dissolved and all powers were transferred to the newly created Division of Elections within the Department of State.

With the passing of the Administrative Act of 1939, changes were made to the process of vote tabulation, as handled by the Division of Elections. However, in 1941, a section 22 was added to the Administrative Act that now delegated these duties to a Board of Elections.

Current functions of the State Board of Elections include the maintenance of voting machines, providing election day supplies to the municipal canvassing boards, certification of the election, poll worker education, mail ballots counts, recounts and the administration of the provisions of the campaign finance laws. The Division of Elections under the Department of State provides voter education, prepares sample ballots, maintains the central voter registry, prepares mail ballots, and publishes election calendars as well as other functions as stipulated in the statutes.


19.24 Cubic Feet


This series documents activites of the State Board of Elections from 1943-1983 relative to conducting elections.


Chronological by date of election

Box 1. 1945-1954 - Primaries and Elections

Box 2. 1944-1955 - Constitutional Conventions

Box 2. 1952-1973 - Primaries and Elections

Box 3. 11/1973-6/1975 - Primaries and Elections

Box 4. 7/1975-6/1976 - Primaries and Elections

Box 5. 1973-1948 - Hearings and Protests

Box 6. 6/1976-10/1977 - Specials, Primaries and Elections

Box 7. 11/1977-8/1979 - Specials, Primaries and Elections

Box 8. 9/1979-3/1980 - Specials, Primaries and Elections

Box 9. 4/1980-10/1981 - Specials, Primaries and Elections

Box 10. 10/1980-6/1983 - Specials, Primaries and Elections

Box 11. 1982 - General Election returns (Providence, Richmond, Scituate, South Kingstown)

Box 12. 1982 - General Election returns (Warwick, Warren, Tiverton, Westerly, Woonsocket)

Box 13. 1980 - General Election returns (Warren, Tiverton, South Kingstown, Smithfield, Richmond, Providence, Portsmouth)

Box 14. 1980 - General Election returns (Warwick, West Warwick, Woonsocket, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, Lincoln, Little Compton, Middletown, Narragansett, Newport)

Box 15. 1980 - General Election returns (Coventry – East Providence, Johnston, New Shoreham, North Kingstown, Jamestown, West Greenwich,)

Box 16. 1980 - General Election returns (Barrington)

Box 16. 1982 - General Election returns (Barrington - Cranston)


No further accruals are anticipated at this time.

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Repository Details

Part of the Rhode Island State Archives Repository

33 Broad Street
Providence RI 02903 USA