Republican presidential delegates outflank Dems in qualifying for the RI ballot
In an unusual development in a state dominated by Democrats, candidates to be Republican presidential delegates scored a perfect record in qualifying for the state ballot even as some prominent Democrats didn’t make the cut.
Providence GOP activist Dave Talan points to the results as evidence of what he calls a broken system — one in which delegate candidates have to gather too many signatures (150) in too litte time (six days, down from 11 in 2008; the actual amount of time depends on when candidates filed their declaration of candidacy).
Eighty-three Republicans filed to run as delegates and each of them met the conditions to qualify for the ballot — a situation Talan attributes to a coordinated approach between the state GOP, city and town committees, and individual candidates. On the Democratic side, 52 individuals filed as delegates, but only 36 qualified for the ballot. In other words, more than 30 percent of the Democratic candidates didn’t make the cut.
The following Democratic delegate candidates were among those who failed to get on the ballot:
— Ray Rickman, a former deputy secretary of state;
— Rochelle Lee, a well-known activist and past city council candidate on Providence’s South Side;
— Matt Santos, a member of the state Board of Regents;
— Joe Buchanan, a well-known South Side activist;.
— State Representative Arthur Handy (D-Cranston)
Talan calls the situation ironic since Rickman, Lee, Santos, and Buchanan are black, and the approach put in place by a Democratic secretary of state left them unable to qualify as delegates for President Obama. He notes that collecting valid signatures is far tougher in most Providence neighborhoods than in suburbs:
That process should not put such an incredible burden on canddiates as to make it almost impossible for a lot of them to qualify.
Chris Barnett, spokesman for Secretary of State Ralph Mollis, calls Talan’s criticism misplaced.
Barnett points to how almost 70 percent of Democratic delegates qualified this year, compared with 57 percent in 2008. He says the 100 percent showing by Republican delegate candidates marks an increase from the 88 percent of GOPers who made the cut in 2008.
Barnett uses this argument to dispute Talan’s claim that RI’s ballot-qualification standards are unreasonably difficult:
Independent candidates for governor like Todd Giroux and Ronald Algieri, without political party apparatus behind them, collected more than 1000 valid signatures in just nine days in 2010. That makes five days to collect 150 signatures seem even more reasonable.
Even with the difficulty faced by some Democratic delegate candidates, plenty of other well-known Dems made it on the ballot. To name a few: Tom Coderre, Douglas Gablinske; Jeffrey Padwa; Joseph Paolino; David Salvatore; Brett Smiley; June Speakman; Herb Weiss; Andy Andujar; Frank Ferri; Myrth York; Michael Solomon; and Teresa Tanzi; not to mention a whole lot of Weiners.
Stephanie DeSilva, executive director of the RI Democratic Party, calls the requirements to qualify as a delegate “tough but doable.” She said the party held “delegate academies” and took other steps to help candidates.
We made sure that folks all over the state knew what the deadlines were and how to go about the process. We made sure we were available to any person who ran, who had questions.
DeSilva says the party hopes to reflect the diversity of RI Democrats through the election of seven or so at-large delegates at the state party convention in June.
Those goals target the inclusion of at least two black delegates; at least three Hispanic delegates; at least one Asian delegate; at least two LGBT delegates; and at least three delegates ages 18–34, she said.
UPDATE: Barnett offers this explanation for why delegate candidates have less time than in the past to gather signatures:
The six-day window is a product of the federal MOVE Act, which requires states to mail absentee ballots available to overseas voters no later than 45 days before an election. This is the first presidential primary since the MOVE Act became law in 2009. Forty-five days from the April 24 presidential primary is this Saturday. Today, the lottery will decide ballot position. Then we’ll spend the next two days designing, proofing, printing and preparing the ballots to be mailed so we can get them off to overseas voters by the deadline.