NEW: Ken Block Says Master Lever May Have Helped Fox Avoid Defeat

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


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Voting reform advocate Ken Block released data showing that killing the master lever legislation helped Gordon Fox win election.

Reform advocate Ken Block released data this morning, showing that killing the Master Lever legislation helped House Speaker Gordon Fox avoid defeat in November. The data according to businessman, Ken Block, a leading advocate for the effort to reform elections in Rhode Island, by eliminating the Master Lever, shows the outdated voting mechanism may have been the only thing that saved House Speaker Gordon Fox from defeat at the polls last November.

Killing the master lever legislation undermines state's democracy.

At the same time, Block called on Fox and Senate President Teresa Paiva-Weed to allow the bill to eliminate the Master Lever to come to a vote, suggesting that if the Senate President was serious about "moving the needle" and fixing the state's economy, a crucial step is getting rid of this archaic voting option that undermines democracy in our state. "Killing the Master Lever legislation in an unaccountable way by denying the bill the opportunity for an up or down vote doesn't move the needle - it mangles the needle", said Block.

Block said the final results of the District 4 State Representative race between Fox and independent challenger Mark Binder last November show that Master Lever votes quite possibly made the difference in keeping the Speaker from being unseated. Fox won with a final tally of 3,590 votes compared to 2,595 votes for Binder. The margin of victory was 995 votes, much less than the 1,469 Democratic master lever/straight party votes which inflated Fox's vote count.

Level the playing field.

"A level playing field may have resulted in a different outcome in that race," said Block. "It is a powerful reminder that we need to demand that our elected officials put the rights of the voters first rather than promoting an outdated voting tool that helps them cling to power."

It is also important to note that 176 Republican Master Lever voters and 85 Moderate Party Master Lever voters may very well have cast no ballot in the District 4 race, potentially disenfranchising those voters as well as the contestants in this race. Fox faced unaffiliated candidate Mark Binder in this contest, and Binder very likely did not receive as many protest votes against Fox as he might have due to the under voting that commonly occurs with Master Lever users.

While Fox may have a personal stake in keeping the Master Lever in place, Block said overwhelming public support for its elimination requires a vote in the House. He also called on Senate President Paiva-Weed to allow the full Senate to debate and vote on the issue, saying it is an essential part of any serious attempt to promote economic development in the state.

Block argues that businesses considering re-locating to our state want to know that there is a transparent and above-board legislative process in Rhode Island. When they see bad deals like 38 Studios passed in the middle of the night or good public policy proposals like the elimination of the Master Lever allowed to die quietly in committee without an up or down vote, they know enough to stay away.

"The Senate President can't stage flashy press conferences to talk about 'moving the needle' while quietly moving to kill the Master Lever bill," said Block. "The people of Rhode Island know empty, phony political posturing when they see it and they know that until we eliminate the Master Lever and clean up our broken political system, businesses will have little interest in moving to our state."

"Most states have already eliminated the Master Lever from their ballots - Rhode Island should not be the last state to do so," said Block.



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