When you’re security-minded like Cranston resident Pat Cortellessa, you look at things differently. His way of thinking about things? Trust but verify. Cortellessa, who works in the security …
When you’re security-minded like Cranston resident Pat Cortellessa, you look at things differently. His way of thinking about things? Trust but verify. Cortellessa, who works in the security field, is the Republican endorsed candidate for secretary of state. His name will be on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Cortellessa is a CCRI graduate with a liberal arts degree. His political pursuits began in 1998 when he launched a protest candidacy against Providence Mayor Buddy Cianci, in an effort to highlight corruption at Providence City Hall.
In 2002, he ran again as a protest candidate but withdrew once Operation Plunder Dome concluded. In 2018, the Republican Party was searching for candidates to run for Secretary of State and Cortellessa ran against Nellie Gorbea for the position. While Gorbea prevailed in the election, Cortellessa said it was a great experience and his first time running on the ballot.
In 2020, Cortellessa became the Republican candidate for the District 27 Senate seat and went up against Hanna Gallo but lost. He said because of the economic devastation that has affected Rhode Island, he thought he had something to contribute in this election. He said the Secretary of State office handles four major departments: elections, corporations, historical archives and civic education. He has plans to address different aspects in each of these departments.
Cortellessa said he would like to clean up the voter rolls and put restrictions on mail ballots. He said the Rhode Island Vote Act that recently passed left out mail ballot harvesters. Therefore, an individual can submit as many mail ballots to the Board of Elections at any time. In some states, an individual can drop off a maximum of five to seven ballots. Cortellessa said Rhode Island has no minimum or maximum.
“When the vote Rhode Island act was passed last month, they had a good opportunity to put restrictions in regarding mail ballot harvesters and they did not,” said Cortellessa.
Cortellessa said he would submit legislation to put in restrictions on mail ballots – limiting it to seven.
Additionally, he would remove the mail ballot drop boxes from street corners since, he says, they are security risks; he added that in some states drop boxes are only allowed in the canvassers offices within City Halls and said that’s something he could work with.
Cortellessa would like to restore mail ballot protections of signature validation. Before the Rhode Island Vote Act, individuals had to have a reason to take a mail ballot – either they were out of town, incapacitated or had a medical reason. He said now, anyone can use a mail ballot. The safeguards have also been removed since, prior, a witness needed to watch you sign the ballot and there needed to be a notary to prove who you are. Cortellessa added that signature verification is very important because safeguards have been removed, and it’s up to the board of local elections to inspect signatures to make sure they match.
As for getting onto the voter rolls, Cortellessa said now you can go to the Secretary of State’s office for a Voter Photo ID and all you need is a credit card, debit card, health club card or house/car plan. He would like to tighten that up and said he would probably do an executive order removing things like a credit card from the list and adding Military photo ID, state ID or company photo ID among other options.
The Secretary of State’s office has a $16 million budget and Cortellessa would like to lower fees for businesses. He said businesses pay a yearly fee around $400 to $450 and he would like to bring that down to $250.
On the technical side, when companies don’t pay fees on time and have their charter revoked, the corporations have to go through the Division of Taxation, request a letter from the state house and the legislature has to approve the businesses to put them back into good standing. He would like to keep all this in the Secretary of State’s office.
Cortellessa doesn’t know if he has the authority to do it, but gave an example of something else he would like to pursue.
In Rhode Island if you open a business and you invest $100,000 federally on your tax form an individual has an infinite amount of time to use that as a loss. He said in Rhode Island, you only have a five year window and, if you don’t get your money back, that sixth year you have to pay capital gains on taxes. He would expand this to 10 years since it takes small businesses longer to see their money back.
Part of the Secretary of State’s job is to highlight historical events for Rhode Islanders to learn about. Cortellessa would like to focus on Rhode Island military heroes who died and include a history of who they were, where they were killed and family.
In 2004, Cortellessa started working with the Rhode Island Vietnam Center on finding MIAs. His interest started while wearing a bracelet in high school that had the name and phone number of a soldier from Vietnam. He got in touch with the person who shared his story of spending five years in a POW camp.
Cortellessa said it’s important to remember these heroes because history sometimes gets lost in the shuffle.
Cortellessa said he would really focus on MIAs.
“I’d have school classes come in and read up on the history of heroes,” Cortellessa said. “I think we’re losing that – especially the younger generation.”
Cortellessa said the Secretary of State’s role in civic education includes teaching Rhode Islanders about government and how policy is formulated in the General Assembly, Senate and Governor’s office. This content is added to school curricula and is something Cortellessa would like to carry on within the state’s school departments.
He would like to get younger kids to learn about civic government and teach them how to get involved at a younger age so they know what to do when they grow up.
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