Master Lever Master Confusion: What Happens to Votes Cast For An Unaffiliated Candidate?

In a post yesterday describing some of Ken Block’s findings about apparent voting problems with the master lever, Patrick wrote

115 times [in Burrillville], the line was connected in favor of the Moderate party, but then all but 18 times, the voters chose someone else for Governor.

The initial temptation is to make a glib comment about the apparent intellectual capacity of these voters. In fact, however, from everything I’ve heard and read, not just in the last week or so, the master lever throws a serious monkey wrench into a voter’s ability to accurately cast his ballot. That, in fact, is much more likely to be the cause of the seeming irreconcilable intent of these voters.
In an important “ferinstance”, there is conflicting information as to what happens to the vote cast for an unaffiliated candidate in a multi seat race, like town council, when a master lever is pulled. Councilman Jim O’Neill of South Kingstown (who runs unaffiliated and is a smart guy about this stuff) swears up and down that if someone pulls the Democrat (or Republican) lever but then votes for him, the vote for him is thrown out.
However, Secretary of State Ralph Mollis says that the opposite would happen! Who is right?
[Monique is Deputy Editor of the RISC-Y Business Newsletter.]

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Ken Block
11 years ago

As I have been told, when a Master Lever ballot has been cast – in a multi-seat race like Town Council, if ANY candidate in that race receives a mark, the Lever does not apply at all in that race.

Phil Hirons, Jr.
Phil Hirons, Jr.
11 years ago

This issue came up in a council election lawsuit in Smithfield. Any vote in a multi-suit race voids the master level for that race. What we saw here was master D votes but a mark for 1 or 2 R candidates. The net result was 0 D votes and 1 or 2 R votes. We can’t expect man or machine to guess which Ds should be replaced with the Rs in this case.
So in this particular case the master level helped Republicans. I’m still against it.
Phil Hirons, Jr.
Smithfield Republican Town Committee

Chris Barnett
Chris Barnett
11 years ago

Mr. Block and Mr. Hirons are correct. Here’s the explanation that we mailed to every residential household in RI prior to Election Day. “If you cast a straight party vote and also vote separately for an individual candidate or candidates for a certain office on the ballot, only the individual party candidate or candidates that you voted for separately will be counted for that office. The straight party vote will not be counted for that office, but it will still apply in all the offices you do not separately complete.”

11 years ago

The voting machine, “The Eagle”, which was used in South County last election would reject any ballot which had a straight party mark and votes cast for a member of the opposite party on the same ballot.
The Administrator was responsible to see that every ballot was accepted. If it were not the ballot would be immediately “kicked” back out, and the Administrator would inform the voter that his/her ballot was rejected, and the voter given another opportunity to recast the vote. I wonder why Smithfield had no such machine.

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