Federal Lawsuit Seeks to End Master Party Lever in Rhode Island

The Providence Journal is reporting that Bob Healey, an independent candidate for lieutenant governor, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court Wednesday seeking to abolish the straight-party voting option on Rhode Island’s ballot for November and all subsequent elections.

Healey is one of 11 plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which names Governor Carcieri, A. Ralph Mollis, secretary of state, members of the state’s Board of Elections and the heads of the state’s Republican, Democratic and Moderate parties as defendants. Among the plaintiffs is Republican Warwick Mayor Scott Avedesian.

U.S. District Judge William E. Smith has set a hearing for Aug. 5 at 9 a.m.

The plaintiffs are alleging that Rhode Island’s continued use of the straight-party ticket option that records votes by optic scanning is unconstitutional and should be eliminated. “The use of the party lever in conjunction with optic scanning technology has created several discernable and distorted voting patterns,” the lawsuit alleges. “Using the optic scan ballot, no marks are visible as to the vote cast in each race. As a result, communities that hold nonpartisan elections demonstrate a marked decline in civic participation, showing that voters often fail to cast votes in nonpartisan municipal contests, mistakenly believing that the party lever has triggered votes in all races.”

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