There were two high-profile election reform issues that failed to pass during the legislative session that just was: one would have stopped full implementation of Rhode Island’s controversial voter ID law and the other was the elimination of the master lever.
It’s too bad because the progressive/conservative coalition that came together to bind up the budget process this year probably could have worked together all session to champion a suite of election reforms.
I suggested this idea to Ken Block way back on January 13. “Maybe we should take a big picture look at election law, and include
#voterid in the conversation,” I tweeted to him after he first asked me to endorse his “abolish the lever” efforts.
At the time, Block didn’t want to bundle the two issues, tweeting back to me: “Master Lever already stands alone in bills submitted in both chambers. Don’t add confusion to a simple effort.
According to his op/ed piece in Sunday’s Providence Journal, he now knows that how a bill before the Rhode Island General assembly reads in January has no necessary relationship to what gets voted on in June. Or maybe he knew that then too, and just didn’t want to support voter ID reform for whatever reason…
In either case, few progressives, for whatever reason, helped Block in his crusade against the master lever either, even though there aren’t a lot of us (if any) who support straight party voting. In that same Twitter exchange Bob Walsh of the NEA said he supported doing away with it:, “Eliminate the lever! Makes down ballot D’s into real D’s, need progressive/labor support to win in November. ”
An important lesson I re-learned this legislative session is progressives and conservatives often have overlapping interests on the issues – Occupy Providence and the Stephen Hopkins Center proved this late in the session when they worked together to host a debate on repayment of the 38 Studios bond holders.
Maybe the takeaway here is that John Marion of Common Cause RI, which supports repeal of both the master lever and voter ID, has a vested interest in getting progressives and members of the Moderate Party to work together?