master lever

Rhode Island's crop of newly elected officials are starting to staff up as we move toward the Thanksgiving lull later this month. Thanks for stopping by. As always, feel free to drop me a line at idonnis (at) ripr (org) and to follow me on the twitters. Let's get to it.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Eliminating the master lever in Rhode Island elections is picking up steam in the General Assembly. RIPR political analyst  Scott MacKay says getting rid of straight party voting may be much ado about not much.

The Rhode Island House of Representatives recently voted unanimously to end the so-called master lever, a relic of the state’s urban political machine past. A conga line of statewide elected politicians, from Gov. Lincoln Chafee down to Secretary of State Ralph Mollis, support this change.

Welcome back to my Friday column. Your tips and thoughts are always welcome at idonnis (at) ripr (dot) org, and you can follow me through the week via the twitters. Let's head in.

Ian Donnis / RIPR

Providence Ward 14 City Councilor David Salvatore, chairman of the council's Ways and Means Committee, joins Political Roundtable to discuss the emergence of Providence's finances as a campaign issue; the impact of a "People's Pledge" in the Democratic primary; the soaring cost of growing state Medicaid enrollment; and the possible effect of eliminating the master lever.

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."

Ian Donnis / RIPR

After years of opposition have failed to yield a response, the House Judiciary Committee voted Tuesday evening to this year eliminate the use in Rhode Island of the master lever.

Critics have complained for decades that the master lever is outdated, confuses voters, and offers an advantage to the Democrats who rule the General Assembly.

In what could be an early win for Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, the full House is slated to vote on the issue Thursday. Similar legislation has yet to emerge from the Senate Judiciary Committee or be scheduled for a full Senate vote.

House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and guest panelist Erika Niedowski of The Associated Press join Bonus Q+A this week to discuss changes in the RI House; the proposed pension settlement; whether the House should vote on a proposal to restore state Ethics Commission oversight of the General Assembly; and much more.

Ian Donnis / RIPR

Democratic Secretary of State candidate Nellie Gorbea joins Political Roundtable this week to discuss her campaign; Rhode Island's Voter ID law, the move to create separate councils overseeing K-though-12 and higher education; and the lack of bidders for a study on the impact of not paying back investors in 38 Studios.

Are Ken Block’s 15 minutes of master lever fame up yet? Block, founder of the Moderate Party, losing 2010 gubernatorial candidate, computer genius and self-appointed political gadfly, has been campaigning relentlessly for an end to the master lever in Rhode Island elections.

Block has advanced a plethora of  reasons, many of them simple good-government ideas that likely resonate with a large slice of voters. He also pushes the yahoo side, weaving in corruption, the state’s economy and shadowy State House dealings by pols elected due to voter ignorance/master lever machinations.

Ian Donnis / RIPR

The leader of efforts to kill straight-ticket voting, Moderate Party founder Ken Block, says opponents of the master lever plan to raise their focus on winning support from House Speaker Gordon Fox and Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed.

“It’s up to the speaker and the Senate president to bring those bills up for a vote in committee to get them to the floor, and now the public pressure begins to mount on both of those offices to do that," Block says. "We’ll be pushing on that very hard over the next month, month and a half.”

Kristin Gourlay

Two bills getting a lot of attention this legislative session will go under the microscope at committee hearings Tuesday. Lawmakers will be discussing legislation abolishing straight-ticket voting and restricting payday lenders.

Moderate Party founder Ken Block is leading an effort to do away with straight ticket voting, a practice also known as using the master lever. Block says the master lever sows confusion and gives an advantage to the ruling Democrats in the General Assembly.

State Senator Stephen Archambault (D-Smithfield) joins us to talk about the outlook on same-sex marriage; the effectiveness of the General Assembly; whether the master lever should be abolished; and whether Ethics Commission oversight of lawmakers should be restored, among other issues.

Moderate Party founder Ken Block, who's had a winning week in the news cycle, says he's still thinking about a possible gubernatorial run in 2014. He got 6.5 percent of vote in a four-way field in 2010.

"I'm just trying to figure it all out," Block said during a taping of RIPR's Bonus Q+A.

The full segment -- covering his fraud and waste report, the master lever, and why more businessmen don't become politically active, among other topics --  airs Friday at 6:40 and 8:40 a.m.

Block says he's still in assessment mode on a future campaign: