Why is the RI Board of Elections Giving Erroneous Instructions to the Moderate Party?

Major congrats to the Moderate Party and their signature fiends … er, petitioners for the 30,000 signature that they have collected in jig time.
Now, unnecessary confusion is being created as to where those signatures must be turned in.
A little incident arose out of last year’s election that Republicans remember with a wince and the Moderate Party has been studying warily. In July, 2008, the BOE voted to disallow five Republican candidates

because the names had been filed with the Secretary of State instead of being submitted to their boards of canvassers.

Additionally, Rhode Island General Law 17-1-2(9) states

If the political organization wishes to select its nominees in a primary election, the petitions, bearing the requisite number of valid signatures, shall be presented to the appropriate local boards of canvassers no later than June 1 of the same year. If the petitions are validated by the local boards as containing the requisite number of valid signatures, the political organization shall be deemed to be a political party for all elections held during the year and may select its nominees in a primary election. If the political organization does not wish to select its nominees in a primary election, then the petitions need not be returned to local boards of canvassers until August 1 of the same year.

In three spots, then, Rhode Island law refers to the necessity of turning signatures in to local canvassing authorities. Further, as anyone who has collected signatures for a statewide candidate knows, signatures must be segregated by city/town and then turned into that city or town as only the local canvassing boards are in a position to verify the eligibility of all signers.
But the BOE is telling the Moderate Party of Rhode Island – insisting, in fact – that it turn in its 30,000 signatures to the Board of Election, not to the corresponding municipalities.
Does the BOE intend to simply turn all signatures over to local canvassing authorities? But that would be an unnecessary and unauthorized step; further to date, such a representation has not been made by BOE that such is their intent.
In view of both the history in this matter as well as the small matter of the law, wouldn’t the Moderate Party have to be chumps to follow the verbal instruction of BOE instead of complying with the specifications of Rhode Island Law?

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Patrick
Patrick
12 years ago

The only way I follow that advice would be on written instructions, on office letterhead, from the executive director, with an original signature.

Will
Will
12 years ago

Monique recalled the same incident re the RIGOP’s well-intentioned, but unsuccessul attempt to appoint General Assembly candidates last year which I definitely had in the back of my mind, when I wrote this elsewhere: 17-1-2 (9) reads in part: “…All the signatures must be obtained no earlier than January 1 of the year in which the political organization desires to place a candidate or candidates on any ballot as a “party” candidate. If the political organization wishes to select its nominees in a primary election, the petitions, bearing the requisite number of valid signatures, shall be presented to the appropriate local boards of canvassers no later than June 1 of the same year. If the petitions are validated by the local boards as containing the requisite number of valid signatures, the political organization shall be deemed to be a political party for all elections held during the year and may select its nominees in a primary election…” To my knowledge, the lawsuit which Ken recently won only negated the arbitrary time deadlines in which to get the forms and signatures, not the locations where they need to be filed. 17-1-2(9) seems to be pretty explicit that the petitions — once they have been signed — would go to the individual BOCs to be checked against the voter lists. …Usually, the checking of signatures has always been done at the local level. Definitely get a second, third, forth opinion before turning anything in. If I were them, I’d get something in writing which is legally binding before turning anything in — preferably written in someone’s blood on vellum. j/k. Whatever you do, don’t just take their word for it. Trust me, if they make a mistake, you’re going to be the ones paying for it — not them. Given that the… Read more »

Ken Block
12 years ago

There is indeed some reason to rush….
The BOE has ‘not yet adopted rules’ for the petitioning process to become a political party.
The MPRI has no desire whatsoever to have these unknown rules be applied to us.
I have been told that the next BOE meeting is tentatively scheduled for 8/19.
It is a little unclear to me what legal authority the BOE has to make up rules for this process.

Will
Will
12 years ago

That’s very interesting, but I can’t say surprising, that they are essentially claiming that they don’t have a process. I’ve always thought they had something of a make it up as you go along attitude. I assume that there have been political parties created in Rhode Island at some points in time since the Civil War. Of course, I would guess that many of them came about as a result of getting the 5% on the gubernatorial ticket, and then getting recognized afterward; not as a result of petitioning them.

Andrew
Editor
12 years ago

Ken,
A blanket grant of rule-making authority is given to the state Board of Elections in section 17-7-5 of the Rhode Island General Laws…

(15)(c) The state board shall have power to make any rules, regulations, and directives that it deems necessary to carry out the objects and purposes of this title not inconsistent with law.

…that seems to decisively settle the issue in favor of signatures needing to be delivered to the board of canvassers, because that’s what the law says, no matter what the BOE decides in terms of its procedures. But this is Rhode Island, so who knows what the courts will come up with. (But I’m pretty sure you were aware of that!)
I think you should be preparing a second lawsuit, based on the fact that any unnecessary delay on the part of the BOE hampers your ability to raise funds by denying you the right to the special privileges given exclusively to political party organizations.

Ken Block
12 years ago

Thanks, Andrew. We are already prepared to file suit quickly if necessary.
Hopefully, the organization tasked with ensuring fair and open elections acts in a responsible manner as far certifying the MPRI as a new political party.
One would also think that if in fact there is any strategic thinking behind the actions being taken by the BOE that they would opt for the least confrontational and least publicity generating path at this point.
This battle is over except for the counting and certifying of the signatures.

Will
Will
12 years ago

“One would also think that if in fact there is any strategic thinking behind the actions being taken by the BOE that they would opt for the least confrontational and least publicity generating path at this point.”
You’re giving them way too much credit. They are almost a stereotype of inefficient bureaucracy in action.
Good luck.

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