Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea made history when she was sworn in on January 6, 2015, becoming the first Hispanic elected to statewide office in New England. She has rapidly emerged on the national scene as a leader who is taking on some of the toughest issues and getting results, leading the way for other states across the country.
Just three years into her first term, she has:
• Improved the elections system by acquiring new state-of-the-art voting machines thus ensuring that Rhode Island was one of the few states in the country to have new voting equipment at all polling places in the 2016 elections;
• Succeeded in making Rhode Island the 9th state in the country to pass automatic voter registration - a voter tool that will reduce errors in the voter file and the potential for voter fraud;
• Worked to increase civic engagement by instituting online voter registration and releasing an enhanced mobile voter information center “app” to better inform voters (at Vote.RI.gov or Vota.RI.gov) especially among the Millennial generation;
• Ushered in tough legislation to increase government transparency, crack down on violations of lobbying rules and make Rhode Island’s lobbying registration system a model for the nation;
• Launched a new online Business Portal to make it easier for entrepreneurs to start businesses in the state;
• Championed the automatic voter registration law that will reduce errors in the voter file and the potential for voter fraud;
• Encouraged Rhode Island high school students to get involved and invested in student government by providing real ballots and voting machines to schools;
• Fought to implement in-person early voting, making voting more convenient for working families and reducing lines on Election Day;
• Initiated the development of a new State Archives and Rhode Island History Exhibition Center that will help Rhode Islanders further understand and appreciate their state’s great history.
In recognition of her extraordinary leadership and achievements, she has been named Regional Vice President for the National Association of Secretaries of State, and is an Aspen Rodel Fellow and a Hunt Kean Fellow. She serves as a member of the Advisory Board of Access Democracy and Salve Regina University. She has also served as Vice Chair for the 2016 Democratic National Convention Platform Committee and Co-Chair of the National Association of Secretaries of States Voter Participation and Business Services Committees.
Originally from Puerto Rico, Gorbea is a graduate of Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs and holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University. She and her husband, Steve D’Hondt, and their three daughters live in North Kingstown.