April 10, 2013

Ken Block: Data shows Master Lever Likely Helped Speaker Fox Avoid Defeat Last November

Monique Chartier

This afternoon, Ken Block released the following interesting analysis of the 2012 election results for District 4.

Reform advocate urges Fox and Senate President Paiva-Weed to respect the voice of Rhode Islanders and let bills eliminating Master Lever come to vote

(PROVIDENCE, RI 4/10/13) Businessman Ken Block, who has been a leading advocate for the effort to reform elections in Rhode Island by eliminating the Master Lever, released data from the Board of Elections today which shows the outdated voting mechanism may have been the only thing that saved House Speaker Gordon Fox from defeat at the polls last November.

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.

"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reminder that we need to demand that our elected officials put the rights of the voters first rather than promoting an outdated voting tool that helps them cling to power."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.

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Mr Binder's answers at project vote smart.com
100% the same answers as Gordan Fox's

No.. Should abortions be illegal after the first trimester of pregnancy?
Yes c) Should abortion be legal when the pregnancy resulted from incest or rape?
Yes d) Should abortion be legal when the life of the woman is endangered?
No e) Do you support requiring parental notification before an abortion is performed on a minor?
No f) Do you support requiring parental consent before an abortion is performed on a minor?
No g) Do you support the prohibition of public funds for abortion procedures?
No h) Do you support the prohibition of public funds for organizations that perform abortions?

Yes a) Do you support restrictions on the purchase and possession of guns?
Yes b) Should background checks be required on gun sales between private citizens at gun shows?
No c) Should citizens be allowed to carry concealed guns?
Yes d) Should a license be required for gun possession?

No a) Should marriage only be between one man and one woman?
Yes b) Should same-sex couples be allowed to form civil unions?
Yes c) Do you support the inclusion of sexual orientation in Rhode Island's anti-discrimination laws?
Yes d) Do you support the inclusion of gender identity in Rhode Island's anti-discrimination laws?

e) Other or expanded principles:
I support Marriage Equality 100%

Posted by: Sammy in Arizona at April 10, 2013 11:54 PM

The numbers don't show that the master lever helped Fox at all. He won with 58% of the vote, so even with really generous assumptions, it's hard to imagine a situation where Binder lost the election because of the master lever.

Let's imagine that a lot of people who voted for Fox via master lever did so by mistake and really wanted to vote for Binder, does it sound at all plausible that 996 out of 1,469 made that mistake? That would mean that 68% of master lever voters really meant to vote for Binder. Or put another way, that 28% (996 alleged mistake master lever votes/(996+2,595 recorded votes) of Binder supporters were duped by the master lever.

Does the master lever cause confusion at the polls? Certainly. Does it cause more than a quarter of the people who want to vote independent candidate to vote Democrat? Seems unlikely.

Posted by: Ummm at April 11, 2013 12:06 PM
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