Letter: Support the effort to remove the ‘Master Lever’

Letter: Support the effort to remove the ‘Master Lever’


To the editor,

A news item ripped from the front page of the daily paper: “The General Assembly adjourned suddenly at 3:19 a.m. today… over complications encountered in trying to insert a master lever provision in the direct primary law for the exclusive benefit of organization-backed candidates.” The master lever proposal was “favored by leaders of both parties as a means of imposing organization control over the selection of party candidates….” (Italics mine.)

You’d think, with good reason, that this was commentary on the midnight workings of the current State House. But you’d be wrong. This story actually comes from the Evening Bulletin of April 24, 1948. Nearly 65 years later, and not a whole lot has changed.

There’s been a push recently, driven by Moderate Party founder Ken Block, to eliminate the master lever from Rhode Island election ballots. Ours is one of only a dwindling few states to still have this type of law on its books.

Legislation has been introduced in both houses of the General Assembly and reportedly has the support of a good many legislators and state leaders including most, if not all, of our state general officers.

The House Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing on the legislation for Wednesday, March 13th, at 4:30pm. In an email blast to concerned citizens, Ken Block has asked that we show our support for the legislation by attending the hearing. Short of that, he asks that we sign a petition to eliminate the master lever at his website www.masterlever.org.

Voting a straight-party ticket by “pulling the master lever” is of great benefit to the major political parties, but a disservice to unaffiliated candidates for local office, who usually end up at the bottom of the ballot and are often completely overlooked. As evidence, Mr. Block has pointed out that, during the 2012 election, more than 9,000 votes were cast for the Moderate Party in 34 Rhode Island communities where there were no Moderate Party candidates on the list.

I urge you to sign the petition and, if you can, to attend the hearing. As Mr. Block writes on his masterlever.org website: “A ballot mechanism should never lead to voter confusion, candidate disenfranchisement or most importantly voter disenfranchisement. The [master lever] mechanism has been documented to cause all three, and therefore should be eliminated from the Rhode Island ballot.”

Candy Seel

East Providence


  1. Subject: The Fight against the Sakonnet Bridge tolls is still on and nothing has changed.

    The Friday, March 8 story in the Providence Journal story about the Thursday House Finance Committee hearings has given many the wrong impression about our effort to reverse the decision to toll the Sakonnet Bridge. The decision has not been made, and the efforts of the STOP Committee to stop the toll continues unabated. It has been a long hard campaign, one that began in October of last year, but we have made substantial progress and our campaign is going very well. We have a very good chance to reverse last year’s law establishing the tolls. We must not lose heart.

    There are presently FIVE bills in the Assembly to reverse the decision to toll the Sakonnet
    Bridge and those opposed to the tolls remain fully engaged. Our success critically depends upon citizen turnout at the Assembly for the House Finance Committee Hearing in late March or early April. The brutal fact of life in the Assembly is that numbers count for everything. If we get a big crowd we have a chance. We need everyone’s continued support.

    Now with 31,000 + signatures on a petition opposing the tolls, a successful media campaign and the remarkably successful DOT hearings in Portsmouth and Tiverton, we in East Bay have been able to turn this situation around. I would like to remind everyone that the State asked to toll route 95, but because it was a Federal Highway, they were turned down. But rout 146 is not.

    When our Representatives inform us when the Finance Committee in the House of Representatives hearing is set, usually starts between 1:00 and 4:00 PM in the RI Statehouse in Providence, we must move quickly. We will let you know through the news papers, radio, fliers and personal e-mails. If you are willing and able, please come and show your opposition and support those who will testify.

    Buses or vans will be provided, and will leave the Stop and Shop in Middletown, Clements Market on East Main Road Portsmouth, and the Park and Ride parking lot on Fish Road inTiverton. Times will be announced when we know them.


    Please call Jeanne Smith at 401-683-1764 or e-mail at [email protected], to let us know your
    coming.We have come a long way; lets’ get this thing done!

    Jeanne Smith, STOP Committee
    Antone Viveiros, Chairman