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Rhode Island voters to see new machines at polls Tuesday

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Rhode Island voters will go to the polls Tuesday to select candidates for Congress and General Assembly and for mayor in North Providence and Woonsocket. Voters will notice a few minor changes at the polls this year, and turnout is expected to be light.

Some things to know about Tuesday's election:

THE NUMBERS

More than 400 polling places will be open around the state. In 2012, the last presidential-year primary, turnout was just 12.8 percent, while in 2008, it was slightly under 10 percent. In the April presidential primary, turnout was around 25 percent, according the office of Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea.

There are more than 770,000 registered voters in Rhode Island. Around 309,000 of those are Democrats, 92,000 are Republicans and 366,000 are unaffiliated.

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VOTING CHANGES

Voters will notice a small change in the way they vote: filling in an oval on their paper ballot rather than connecting an arrow. The change is due to new digital-scan voting machines being rolled out across the state in the primary.

A portion of the polling locations will also start using new electronic poll books during the primary. The new wireless tablet-based system is designed to make it easier for poll workers to find voters' names and eliminate the waits that can happen when workers have to pore through printed binders arranged alphabetically.

Several more polling places will use electronic poll books during the Nov. 8 general election, and then the full rollout is scheduled to happen in 2018, Gorbea's office said.

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CONCERNS

Because the new voting equipment will transmit results wirelessly, John Marion of the good government advocacy group Common Cause said they are watching closely. Robert Rapoza, acting director of the Board of Elections, said the results will be secure because "there is no interaction with the internet."

Marion said while there are layers of security built into the system, Rhode Island does not conduct post-election audits to compare paper ballots to the results the machine produces. He called such audits a "best practice" done by more than half the states, and said his group will renew a push next year to pass legislation to require such audits. While Marion said there is no indication anyone could hack into a voting machine, "We just need to be alert to the possibility that someone could do something."

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