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.”