New state election panel member speaks out on Matos signature scandal

Randy Jackvony insists he’s confident that Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos gathered enough signatures to make the 1st Congressional District Democratic primary ballot.

But he wants the R.I. Board of Elections to look through all 728 certified John Hancocks on her nomination papers anyway. Which is exactly what Jackvony, who serves on the seven-member election panel, plans to propose to his fellow board members in a meeting Tuesday.

“My goal is to make sure the public knows we’re looking at this, and understand their feedback,” Jackvony said in an interview on Friday, Aug. 4, the same day the election board announced its upcoming meeting. “And more importantly, to think for the future. What training or standardizing of the process, to make it more uniform, might we consider?”

The Board of Elections meets at 2 p.m. Tuesday at its offices in Cranston. The meeting will also be streamed on its YouTube page.

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Jackvony’s comments come less than a week after election board members emerged from a closed-door meeting and defended their decision not to comb through Matos’ signatures despite fraud detected by multiple municipal election administrators. Two weeks ago, the election board opted to refer Matos’ signatures to the Rhode Island Office of the Attorney General, where a criminal investigation of fraud allegations was already underway. Jackvony cast the sole “no” vote on that decision.

Jackvony declined to share the reasons why he voted no, citing state meeting laws that allowed the board to discuss their decision behind closed doors. But he was adamant he does not think the election board made a mistake, nor, as some critics have contended, that the signature review process failed.

“We wouldn’t even be talking about this if the system hadn’t worked,” Jackvony said.

Indeed, it was election administrators in Jamestown, and later Newport, and East Providence, who first sounded alarm bells about suspicious signatures on Matos’ nomination papers, including names of dead people and forged signatures for the entire East Providence City Council.

“The system, while certainly not perfect, worked,” Jackvony said, stressing his confidence in local election authorities.

He would know. The Cranston resident and chief information officer for Rhode Island Medical Imaging previously served nine years on the Cranston Board of Canvassers, including as its chairman. He also served on the Cranston City Council from 2003 to 2005. He was nominated to the state election board by Gov. Dan McKee on June 1 and confirmed by the Rhode Island Senate on June 13. His first meeting was July 11.

It’s been a whirlwind 27 days since Jackvony’s first day sitting behind the dais in the state election board offices. And he’s gotten an earful from friends and political onlookers about the board’s decisions.

“People make assumptions when there is a vacuum of information,” he said. “I felt like it’s important to clarify, so the public understands a little bit more.”

What’s clear, in Jackvony’s eyes: Matos made the ballot, with 728 signatures certified by the Rhode Island Secretary of State, well above the 500-signature minimum.

While many of the flagged signatures on her nomination papers were thrown out, WPRI has also interviewed people who say they never signed her papers despite their signatures being included in the final count.

Jackvony acknowledged that there may be more fraud than was initially spotted. But he also said some of those people who told reporters their signatures were faked could offer a different story if subpoenaed and asked to testify under oath.

“On a local level, when we processed papers, there were people who said they never signed but then later admitted they were embarrassed, or they just didn’t want their cousin to know, or something like that,” Jackvony said.

A thorough review of all of Matos’ signatures could potentially put to rest the speculation of more widespread fraud. But that can’t happen if state election officials don’t do it.

“Until you go through those papers you are not going to know every possible iteration of what could have gone not 100% correct,” he said.

Whether his fellow board members will support his proposal, he’s not sure. But that’s not going to stop him from trying.

Christopher Hunter, a spokesperson for the state election board, said in an email on Monday it would be “premature” to comment prior to the meeting.

Nancy Lavin is staff writer for the Rhode Island Current.

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