Senate panel takes up bill to end 'master lever'

A legislative panel took up a bill that would eliminate straight ticket voting in Rhode Island but has voted to hold it for further study.

The Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony Tuesday on a bill that would get rid of the option of voting for all the candidates of one party with a single mark on the ballot.

Critics of straight-ticket voting, known as the master lever, testified that it confuses and disenfranchises voters and hurts nonpartisan candidates lower down on the ballot.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Block has pushed for years to eliminate the option. Block told the panel the master lever is not a partisan issue but rather "bad for democracy."

About a quarter of Rhode Island voters in the November 2012 election used the master lever.