Friday, April 24, 2009

BOE Supports Removing the Master Lever

The body charged with “the governance and conduct of elections” in Rhode Island has voted to support efforts to remove the straight party master lever from the ballot. On Wednesday, April 22nd, the Rhode Island Board of Elections voted 3 to 1 to support the bi-partisan movement to eliminate the master lever.

“The Board of Elections vote does not mean the straight party master lever is removed from the ballot,” says John Marion of the government reform group Common Cause, a member of the Make Every Vote Count coalition, “but their custodial role over elections in Rhode Island means their approval carries great weight.” Only the General Assembly can remove the straight party lever and currently there are two bills to do so, H 5318 and S 80, stalled in committees at the Statehouse.

“The straight party master lever is problematic for many reasons,” says activist Margaret Kane, “it does not work well with our current optical scan system.” This especially affects elections at the local level. In local non-partisan elections (16 RI Communities), a large undervote is due to straight party votes that ignore these races. And in instances in local partisan elections, the straight party vote in any local race with more than one position, is deleted without the voters’ knowledge, when voters make additional marks on the ballot in that local race.

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