Moving Toward Abolishing the Lever
The movement to abolish the master lever, or more accurately in Rhode Island, abolish straight party voting (SPV) seems to be gaining steam. A couple days ago, Andrew wrote about the majority of the House Judiciary Committee is also in favor. Tomorrow night (Wednesday) at 4:30, the committee will hear public testimony on the bill. If this is a bill that interests you, it might be a good idea to stop by and let the House Judiciary know what you feel on this bill.
However, some have questioned whether the master lever really hurts anything. Let’s do a quick review. The point of SPV is to cast a vote for all candidates on a ballot who are a member of that party. In multiple cases, voters will cast a vote for a party that has no candidates on the ballot! In multiple cases, voters will cast a SPV vote but then vote for candidates in other parties on the same ballot! Why is that? Are they confused about how SPV works and what it means? If so, that’s voter disenfranchisement and needs to be fixed immediately. The fix is to eliminate the option. The only other possibility is malice. They are either protesting or simply trying to cause confusion on their ballot. So again, let’s eliminate the ease that someone can create this level of confusion on their ballot.
There’s also the issue of undervotes. A SPV vote only goes to candidates who are a member of that party and running in a partisan race where parties matter. Many races on a ballot are considered “non-partisan”, which means the candidates are not running for the seat as a member of a party. If a voter casts a SPV vote, any candidate in a non-partisan race does not get a vote, unless the voter specifically casts a vote in that non-partisan race. If the voter does not, that’s called an “undervote.”
Some will say that many people don’t care about these races. They’re often for things like school committee and many voters are there simply to vote for President or Congress. They don’t care about the down-ballot races. But, looking a little deeper into the numbers that they’ve dug up over at masterlever.org, they found that on ballots that contained a SPV vote, 45% also had an undervote for non-partisan town council races. On those ballots that did not have a SPV vote, only 19% contained an undervote. In non-partisan school committee races, 31% contained an undervote without the SPV line marked while 58% had an undervote when the SPV line was connected.
That indicates people don’t fully understand what the straight party vote is doing on their ballot. This hurts the integrity of elections in those non-partisan races. This is doing a disservice to the candidates in those races. The data bears out the fact that when Rhode Island joins the many others who abolished straight party voting that we will then have more true elections and a great deal of integrity will be restored.
Please consider stopping by the Statehouse tomorrow night and telling the House Judiciary to Abolish the Lever.