PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Several candidates for legislative office in Rhode Island filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging the rule requiring the in-person collection of signatures to get on the ballot, saying its putting them at risk amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The lawsuit filed in federal court by the ACLU of Rhode Island cooperating attorney Armando Batastini seeks to suspend the ballot qualification process for the 2020 election cycle and put in place other methods, like electronic signatures. The lawsuit says the current process “needlessly exposes candidates, their supporters, and the general public to risks associated with the Covid-19 pandemic with no justifiable countervailing government interest.”

“Candidates should not face the impossible choice of risking infection to themselves, their families, or others to in order to appear on the ballot, nor should their supporters,” Steve Brown, executive director of the ACLU of Rhode Island, said in an emailed statement.

Other developments in the coronavirus crisis in Rhode Island:



Rhode Island officials on Tuesday reported 14 new coronavirus deaths and 72 new positive cases.

That brings the state's virus death toll to 865. The state has reported more than 16,000 positive cases. Nearly 130 people are hospitalized, according to data released by the state.

Rhode Island officials said Monday that state had reported its first child death from the coronavirus.

On Monday, State Department of Health Director Nicole Alexander-Scott also said her agency is working on possibly allowing drive-up visits at nursing homes, where the majority of the state’s fatal cases of COVID-19 have occurred.

She said visitors would have to stay in their car with masks on while the nursing home resident would be kept several feet away and also have to wear a mask.