Moderate Party chairman and possible gubernatorial candidate Ken Block is out with a new website, masterlever.org, which petitions the Governor and the General Assembly to eliminate the ability to vote solely based on party line (a.k.a., the “master lever”).
As a case study for why it should be banned, Mr. Block offers up the 9000+ Rhode Island voters who used the option to vote for the Moderates, despite only three candidates running under the Moderate banner (two Moderates ran in nonpartisan races).
I personally think this is a good idea, the option is archaic, and obviously damaging in nonpartisan contests (of course, I also oppose nonpartisan contests, but that’s beside the point). Yet there’s a cynic in me that has to guess what may come. I worry political leaders in the General Assembly might attempt to squash this merely to prevent the Moderate Party any sort of win. I think this is short-sighted. Let me offer the cynic’s perspective on why the lever should be banned.
Republicans have long advocated the elimination of the master lever, and in this case it’s no surprise to see virtually every local politician from the Grand Ol’ Party backing Mr. Block’s crusade. In fact, non-Democrats often point to the master lever as a reason why they can’t compete in this state.
So, it will be refreshing when the convenient cover of the master lever is eliminated. Perhaps non-Democrats will have to face the unpopularity of their policies for a change. More likely, they’ll rely more heavily on the “stupid Rhode Islanders” line that their candidates and supporters have been throwing around lately. I’m sure that will do wonders for their popularity.
General Assembly leaders should speedily remove the master lever, or at least mandate its placement at the very end of the ballot. Mr. Block rightly points out that his party gained 9000+ votes with the lever alone; votes which the Moderates might not necessarily have received had people had to vote race by race. It’s likely the top-ballot placement gave the Moderate Party the most exposure it got during the last cycle.
With the elimination of the master lever, perhaps non-Democrats will start focusing on issues that affect Rhode Islanders more than once every other year or so. They might consider following in the footsteps of former Sen. Bethany Moura and former Rep. Daniel Gordon; who both spent a great deal of their time fighting foreclosure in our state, much of it fraudulent in nature. I believe conservatives are supposed to care about protecting citizens’ property.