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Republican presidential delegates outflank Dems in qualifying for the RI ballot

March 7, 2012

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.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. Phil Hirons, Jr. permalink
    March 7, 2012 8:56 pm

    “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.”

    They did it in JUNE! And their pool was the entire state. Delegate candidates have 5 days in February and are limited by congressional district. Had RI seen a medium snow storm over the weekend of Feb 25-26 the success rate would have dropped drastically. Should New England weather really play a part in the political process?

  2. Mister Guy permalink
    March 8, 2012 2:51 am

    Who cares who the delegates actually are? Almost all of the RI GOP delegates are bound to support the candidate that they are on the ballot for, and we all know who the Democratic nominee for President of the USA is going to be this fall.

  3. Russell Lorenson permalink
    March 8, 2012 3:09 pm

    Ian and Scott great article thank you. 30% Of the Democratic candidates didn’t qualify; it is difficult to collect 150 valid signatures in 6 days, especially for a regular guy without an organization that just wants to make a difference. What I do not understand is with only 36 of the 40 slots filled for delegate to President Obama, why was their at least one perhaps more candidates, forced into the uncommitted category. John Matson stands up to be counted, spends the time and emotional energy to collect 150 signatures in such a short time, why is he then rejected by The Party, when they were not able to even fill out the required slots?

  4. March 8, 2012 4:17 pm

    The most important question regarding the delegate count for the Democrats is: why did the Democratic State Chairman try to kick John Matson off of the primary ballot when four of its candidates failed to qualify? Matson qualified as an Obama delegate and was told by the Secretary of State’s office that his name would not be included on the ballot in any capacity because he was not selected by the Democratic Party. After seeking help from the A.C.L.U. and threatening a lawsuit it was decided that his name would appear on the ballot as an uncommitted delegate. This comes several weeks after Democrat State Party Chair, Edwin Pacheco issued a public call asking for volunteers to run in an “open primary” to seek a seat as a delegate. This is just one more example showing that the giants of the Rhode Island Democratic Party have fallen and the pigmies have taken over.

  5. March 8, 2012 4:20 pm

    Thank you.
    Jim Mageau

  6. March 8, 2012 5:10 pm

    Was I the only candidate who was told that their name would not be on the ballot
    after collecting the 150 signatures for Barrak Obama as a delegate as required by
    the election laws
    At 3 pm they called and said I would be on the ballot as a uncommited delegate by myself.
    John O Matson

  7. Random RI permalink
    March 10, 2012 2:26 am

    John, probably because you change your political affiliation as quickly as most folks change their shirts.

    • March 10, 2012 1:39 pm

      John Matson decision to change his political affiliation is irrelivant. Does that same retional also apply to Governor Chafee who changed his affiliation from Republican to Independent and won the race for governor. Its long been held that membership in a political party is a state of mind subject to change without notice by personal will. Matson’s decision to change his affiliation is a question that should be answered by the electorate not some political party hack.The Democrat state chairman made a dumb mistake but eventually realized it and placed Matson’s name on the primary ballot.

      • Mister Guy permalink
        March 10, 2012 9:19 pm

        “John Matson decision to change his political affiliation is irrelivant.”

        Of course it’s relevant. They don’t hand out these kind of Party positions to just anyone yanno. The people that they want in them are the Party faithful, not the flavor-of-the-week-types. I don’t have any problem with any Party getting to ultimately decide who should run for the position of delegate.

      • March 11, 2012 12:46 pm

        Its unfortunate that Mr. Guy is so inept that he needs instructions on the political process and the constitutional rights of Mr. Matson from a “yano”. The state’s election laws mandate the process required in order to change a person’s political affiliation in order to qualify to have ones name placed on a party’s primary ballot. Mr. Matson qualified in that respect!! Rhode Island is an “open primary” state which means that any Democrat or unaffiliated voter can cast a vote to elect delegates to the Democrat National Convention. (Hello!!) The Secretary of State’s office obviously agrees because Mr. Matson’s name has been placed on the ballot as an “uncommitted delegate” but thats not significant because President Obama is the only candidtate. Mr. Guy speaks of the “party faithful”. There so faithful that they didn’t get four of its candidates qualified to run in the primary. Wake up and smell the roses Mr. Guy, the world is passing you by.

  8. Mister Guy permalink
    March 12, 2012 7:40 am

    “the constitutional rights of Mr. Matson”

    No one has a constitutional “right” to be a Party delegate for anything…get a clue man…

    “The state’s election laws mandate the process required in order to change a person’s political affiliation in order to qualify to have ones name placed on a party’s primary ballot.”

    As has been pointed out already, people can change their Party affiliation very, very easily in RI…basically to the point to where it really means nothing….that’s why the wishes of the Party in question should, IMHO, come into play when picking these kind of delegate candidates.

    “Rhode Island is an ‘open primary’ state which means that any Democrat or unaffiliated voter can cast a vote to elect delegates to the Democrat National Convention.”

    Thank you Captain Obvious…I’ve voted in RI many times before yanno…lol…

    “The Secretary of State’s office obviously agrees because Mr. Matson’s name has been placed on the ballot as an ‘uncommitted delegate'”

    …because they likely are aware of the fact (probably from the Democratic Party in this case) that Mr. Matson apparently changes his political affiliation as quickly as most folks change their shirts. In other words, he obviously can’t be trusted to be a pledged delegate for anyone, which is why he’s on the ballot as an uncommitted delegate.

    “President Obama is the only candidtate.”

    I’ve already stated that above. Once again, thank you Captain Obvious!

    “There so faithful that they didn’t get four of its candidates qualified to run in the primary”

    …and I state again…who the heck cares?? President Obama is going to win RI’s Primary in April. Heck, he’s going to run away with RI’s 4 Electoral College votes in November!

    • March 12, 2012 1:59 pm

      As I said in my earlier comment, “the giants of the Rhose Island Democratic Party have fallen and the pigmies have taken over.” Mr. Guy obviously is one of the pigmies. He presumes that Mr. Matson’s name was placed back on the Democrat primary ballot, after being kicked off by the Democrat chairman, because the state chairman suddenly realized the error of his ways. I bet he also believes that the moon is made of green cheese. I think that the state chairman’s decision to reverse himself and place Mr. Matson’s back on the ballot was because of a threatened lawsuit. Mr. Pigmy state’s that he doesn’t care that the “party faithful” failed to qualify four of its candidates but then insists that the selection of delegates should be reserved for the “party faithful.” Huh!!! Perhaps Mr. pigmy should look up the diffenition of the noun, oxymoron.
      Jim Mageau

      • Mister Guy permalink
        March 12, 2012 6:25 pm

        “He presumes that Mr. Matson’s name was placed back on the Democrat primary ballot, after being kicked off by the Democrat chairman, because the state chairman suddenly realized the error of his ways.”

        No, he was likely put there by the Secretary of State’s Office, likely after consulting with the Democratic Party…who, after all, is basically running that primary. Once again, I have absolutely no problem with a Party running their primaries how they want them to be run.

        “he doesn’t care that the ‘party faithful’ failed to qualify four of its candidates but then insists that the selection of delegates should be reserved for the ‘party faithful.’”

        LOL…this primary election on the Democratic side is pretty much pointless at this point…we all know that Obama has already won it. Then again, that’s already been stated here several times for Mr. Mageau to see…perhaps he should look up the word moron in the dictionary and, while he’s at it, learn how to spell in the meantime.

        I think we’re done here…

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