Ban the Master Lever!
We’ve written about this multiple times before, banning the master lever, also known as straight ticket or straight party voting. It’s that option at the top of a ballot where you can simply connect one line and vote for every candidate on the ballot affiliated with that party, in partisan races. I believe this should be eliminated from our ballot, like most states have done. However, in the past, the idea hasn’t been able to gain any real traction because it didn’t have a person with the time or resources to really drive it in a meaningful way. Robert Healey, a frequent candidate has pushed for its elimination, and Secretary of State Ralph Mollis has advocated for this law change, but without any real campaigning.
Now, one-time candidate for Governor and Moderate Party chairman Ken Block is starting a push to eliminate straight ticket voting from our system. His web site, masterlever.org has information about the use of the lever, bi-partisan comments from supporters of removing the master lever, a running tally of those who support and oppose his action in the Statehouse as well as an easy way for people to write to the state’s leaders and request that this change is made.
Sure, it’s easy to say that I support this simply because I am not a Democrat and it doesn’t help me. But let’s take a look at the masterlever.org web site and see if there are any Democratic supporters.
Rep. Edith Ajello, Rep. Raymond Hull, Rep. Peter Palumbo, Rep. Frank Ferri, Rep. Lisa Tomasso, Rep. Teresa Tanzi, Rep. Spencer Dickinson, Rep. Donna Walsh, Rep. Larry Valencia, Rep. Michael Marcello, Rep. Gregory Costantino, Rep. Lisa Baldelli-Hunt, Rep. Gregg Amore, Rep. Joy Hearn, Rep. John Edwards, Rep. Deborah Ruggiero, Rep. Peter Martin
Sen. Louis DePalma, Sen. Marc Cote, Sen. William Walaska, Sen. Leo Raptakis, Sen. Susan Sosnowski
Right there are twenty-two Democrats at the Statehouse that are in favor of this. That’s more than the entire Republican caucus, so it’d seem fair to label this issue as bi-partisan.
Plus, there have been studies on the subject and the results have indicated that if our goal is to preserve the integrity of elections, using the master lever is not the way to go. Statistics show great amounts of undervotes on ballots when using the straight party option. An undervote is when a vote is not tallied in a specific race. Many towns have non-partisan races for some seats and these are not covered by the straight ticket option. So if a voter didn’t take the time to go down and vote in these races, how do we know how many other races the voter did not intend to vote in?
High ranking elections officials have also advocated for the elimination of this option, including the John Daluz, the Chairman of RI Board of Elections:
“the Board voted 3-1 to support the repeal of Rhode Island General Law 17-19-15 Party Levers, to reduce undervotes and eliminate voter confusion.”
The good government groups also support this change:
“the master lever, threatens to reverse that process. It’s time to eliminate it from Rhode Island’s ballot.” – Margaret Kane, President, Operation Clean Government
“Almost two decades ago Rhode Island had the foresight to move into the 20th century with our voting machines. Unfortunately our ballot design is stuck in the 19th century with the outdated and confusing master lever. It’s time for it to go.” – John Marion, Executive Director, Common Cause RI
“The best academic evidence indicates that when voters use the master lever their true preferences for candidates and parties are not realized.” – The American Journal of Political Science, 2012
And lastly, even the guy who is in charge of the entire Rhode Island election system, the Secretary of State, a Democrat himself has suggested that we eliminate the straight-ticket option:
“The master lever has the potential to inadvertently disenfranchise some voters and causes too many others to question the fairness of their elections. I’m convinced the time has come to take it off the ballot”
When the evidence is that overwhelming from people who have actually studied this issue, our politicians in opposition to banning the lever at the Statehouse look pretty silly when they testify about this and begin their statements with “I think…” or “I believe…”. The data is there. The proof is there. Voters can be disenfranchised when this is an option. Voters’ true intent is often not realized.
It’s time to join the other 34 US states who have decided to ban the straight party option. Contact your Senator and Representative, as well as Governor Chafee and tell them you support eliminating the master lever.
Quotes taken from http://www.masterlever.org