House Votes 70-0 To Kill Master Lever; Paiva Weed "Keeping An Open Mind"

May 1, 2014

Rep Doreen Costa (R-North Kingstown) rebutted one colleague's concern by saying grandparents are "smart cookies" who can understand voting without the master lever.
Credit Ian Donnis / RIPR

The Rhode Island House, in an abrupt change after years of indifference to the issue, voted unanimously Thursday to eliminate the use of the master lever in Rhode Island in 2014. Through her spokeswoman, Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed said she's "keeping an open mind about the legislation to eliminate the straight ticket voting option from Rhode Island ballots."

Citizens have for years decried straight ticket voting as an outdated relic that gives an edge to the ruling Democrats at the Statehouse. Scituate Representative Michael Marcello, who lost a fight for the speakership in March to Nicholas Mattiello, credited Mattiello with sending a signal that change is possible on Smith Hill.

"After 40 years of trying, the House finally is doing the people’s will," Marcello said. "No one knows what this change will bring, but your willingness to schedule this vote today does show a change in thinking that is desperately needed if we are ever going to restore the people’s confidence and trust in this House."

At the same time, other reps warned that killing the master lever won’t single-handedly spark a more competitive two-party system in Rhode Island. The move to eliminate straight ticket voting still faces Senate approval, first in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The head of that chamber, Paiva Weed, says she remains undecided on the issue