With committee hearings this afternoon on legislation that would eliminate the master lever from the voting ballot, state Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi will testify in support of a measure that would leave the ballot unchanged this year, but remove it in the next election.
“I think it’s a good thing to do this in a pragmatic way,” Shekarchi said of his legislation to be heard by the House Judiciary Committee. The bill requires the Secretary of State to do outreach and educate the public, as was done before implementation of the voter ID requirement.
“Times are changing. People are more savvy, and when forced to learn they do,” said Shekarchi.
What’s more, unlike the Senate Judiciary Committee that held the master level bill for further study, Shekarchi believes his bill stands a good chance of a favorable committee vote.
The Democratic freshman Warwick legislator said Ken Block, a candidate for governor, convinced him that elimination of the master lever is the right thing to do. As founder of the Moderate Party and its candidate for governor four years ago, Block has persistently argued for elimination of the ability, with a single stroke, to vote a straight party ticket. Now running as a Republican, Block continues his crusade.
“He makes a compelling analysis,” Shekarchi said of Block.
That’s not the way Shekarchi’s longtime friend and clerk of the Warwick Board of Canvassers for 17 years sees it.
“Joe Gallucci is set against it,” said Shekarchi.
Reached by telephone, Gallucci argued to keep the lever.
“They should consider the senior population. These people don’t want to stand in line. Nobody loses a vote because of the master lever,” he said.
Gallucci pointed out that of Warwick’s 82,000 population, about 56,000 are registered voters and about a third of that number are 65 years old or older. He sees the master level as a convenience for the elderly, although he personally has never voted using the master lever.
Shekarchi said one of Block’s most compelling arguments is that voters see the lever as a designation of what party they favor and they then go on to vote for candidates individually. Should they vote for a candidate that is not under the party label they have selected, they then invalidate their ballot.
If that happens, Gallucci counters, the machine rejects the ballot and the voter has the chance to recast the ballot.
Even so, Shekarchi is with Block on this one and with proper preparation and education, which he acknowledges will take time and is deliberative, he supports elimination of the master lever. He said he’s told Block of his support even though, he adds, “He’s not president of the Joe Shekarchi fan club.”