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Rep says all RI candidates should face background checks

September 20, 2011

Representative Scott Slater, Democrat of Providence, says he plans to file a bill for the next session that would require criminal background checks for all Rhode Island political candidates. He says this via news release, following attention related to Representative Dan Gordon:

“I think it is vitally important that Rhode Islandvoters are made fully and completely aware of the background and criminal history, if any, of all individuals who seek public office in our state,” said Representative Slater. “Credentials and policies and positions of candidates are important to voters. I think it is at least equally important, if not more so, for our citizens to know if the person asking for their vote has had any criminal or legal problems. Requiring a BCI check would provide voters with an accurate accounting of the criminal background of would-be office holders.”

Representative Slater said that his legislation will seek to require a BCI check for candidates once they have been certified by the Board of Elections to run for office.

Representative Slater said that he decided to pre-file the bill in light of recent news reports concerning a sitting member of the House of Representatives but that such legislation would be valid and appropriate even if that were not the case.

“We already require background checks on a great number of individuals seeking employment in Rhode Island, such as those seeking jobs that place them in contact with children,” he said. “In the past legislative session, alone, we passed bills requiring checks for individuals seeking jobs with the Department of Children, Youth and Families, in other child services agencies and even municipal recreation departments.”

“I think the public has a right to know as much as possible about the person who is seeking their votes, including any past problems with the law,” he said. “Unless voters are shown the full picture of a candidate for office, they are voting in a vacuum and that is just not fair or correct, in my view. Individuals asking the public to trust them in an elected office should be required to provide this kind of criminal background information so that the public can make an informed decision.”

The Bureau of Criminal Identification, within the Office of the Attorney General, serves as the central registry and clearinghouse for all descriptive and demographic information on individuals arrested and convicted of crimes. Through the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS), the BCI is linked in with the FBI’s national database.

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