The master lever IS the cause of confusion

The following letter appeared in Rhode Island newspapers and is reprinted here with permission of the author Ruth Platner. Ms. Platner is a member of the Charlestown Planning Commission and has been a candidate (elected) in non-partisan elections since 1998.


After years of citizen lobbying, the Rhode Island House of Representatives voted unanimously in May to abolish the “Master Lever”. The master lever choice on the election ballot causes confusion, canceled and unintentional votes, and especially hurts independent or non-partisan candidates.

Many voters who started voting after the paper ballot was introduced are not clear what the master lever does. In the mechanical voting machines you could see all the other levers move, but on the paper ballot you can’t see the straight party effect.

Every candidate for governor supported removal of the master lever, as did the RI Board of Elections, Common Cause Rhode Island, Operation Clean Government, and locally in Charlestown – the Charlestown Citizens Alliance and the Charlestown Town Council urged removal of the straight party choice. Secretary of State Ralph Mollis was also a voice for reform and abolition of the Master Lever.

The RI Senate voted to abolish the master lever too – but with a catch. Their removal of the lever doesn’t take place until after the November election. As suggested by candidates running for Secretary of State and echoed by Providence Journal and other newspaper editorials, current Secretary of State Ralph Mollis has the power to move the confusing master lever choice from the top to the bottom of the ballot.

Recently I wrote to the Secretary’s office asking if it was considering moving the master lever off of its prominent top-of-ballot position. The response was to not cause voter confusion we are leaving it in the place it has been in”. But the master lever IS the cause of confusion.

I urge others to ask Secretary Mollis to reconsider. The ballots are not yet printed. It’s still not too late to substantially reduce confusion and take the master lever off the top.

Please send your email request to change the master lever position to both aralphmollis@sos.ri.gov and elections@sos.ri.gov

Ruth Platner

Ruth is the current Chair of the Charlestown Planning Commission and has been involved in land use issues in Charlestown for over 20 years.