FairVote RI

   145 Wayland Ave,
   Providence, RI 02906

   Phone: 401.429.6059

   Fax: 360.933.2456

   sledge@fairvote.org

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National Popular Vote Advancing Across the States
National Movement Mirrors Progress in Rhode Island
On March 10, Rhode Island's Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony about the national popular vote bill. Now the Progressive States Network has a great roundup on the action regarding the bill around the country:

Passage of NPV bills has begun at a healthy pace this session. New Mexico's House was the first legislative chamber to pass the National Popular Vote Bill in 2009. Now five other state legislative chambers have joined in just the past month, bringing the total to six.

It's important to remember that the national popular vote bill does not go into effect until states possessing a majority (270 of 538) of Electoral Votes have signed on. This is a nationwide effort, of which Rhode Island is just a small part. We're getting closer.


RI Senate Jud Approves US Senate Vacancies Bill
As both the Providence Journal and the Associated Press are reporting, the Rhode Island Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill to ensure elections for every US Senate seat. S 201, sponsored by Senator Paul Jabour, empowers the voters of Rhode Island to pick replacements for vacant US Senate seats. No word yet on the date for the floor debate.


Notwithstanding budget crisis, R.I. mustn't cut civics position
Providence Journal editorial from FairVote RI director

Director Matt SledgeRHODE ISLAND and America in general are in a fiscal crisis that also seems to be a crisis of government. In response, the Rhode Island Board of Regents plans to cut the sole statewide civics-education position, along with funding for civics professional development. The state has historically underperformed at teaching its students the fundamentals of civic participation. Now, just when we are beginning to catch up — and just when we could surely use a critical, well-informed electorate — the state is throwing in the towel on civics.

Rhode Island has no state mandate for high-school civics classes. Whether because of cost fears or reluctance to interfere in local affairs, civics is implemented on a piecemeal, district-by-district or even school-by-school basis. Individual teachers and administrators are responsible for ensuring every student is given a decent primer on the fundamentals of American democracy. These are the teachers who register eligible students to vote in class, or give up some of their scarce free time to sponsor Model U.N. and Mock Trial teams. They work hard to give their students civics literacy, and we do too little to support them.

Indeed, my group, FairVote Rhode Island, is doing a statewide study on the condition of civics education. Responses are still arriving, but so far we have found widespread eagerness to improve civics education along with a general hunger for more support from the state. One school administrator told us they “need the district to support a civics program,” and another welcomed professional development, saying, “The Social Studies Department would be receptive to just about any topic (Voting, Amendments, Legal Issues, Branches/Types of Gov’t).” Teachers need professional-development support, lesson plans and recommendations on classroom best practices.

Unfortunately, in the teeth of the current state budget crisis, the Board of Regents has determined that the state can no longer afford its only — that’s right, we have just one — civics-education specialist. The state is also cutting $15,000 for teacher training in civics and the Civics Day program at the State House.

The timing couldn’t be worse.

In December, the Regents finally approved state standards on Civics & Government and Historical Perspectives. It took much hard work on the part of our current civics-education specialist, Kamlyn Keith, to make that happen. So it is a cruel irony that we are losing her position just when our state was poised to finally make real progress in this area. (She is being transferred to cover two other positions.) Without support from a civics-education specialist, there is scant hope that the just-issued civics standards will be implemented by school districts in a uniform way.

High-school seniors about to enter a dismal job market could surely use historical perspectives — from George Washington’s leadership at Valley Forge to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s First Inaugural — on our current situation. It would say something less than appealing if our state’s first instinct in the midst of a crisis is jettisoning critical thinking.

Everyone saw the enthusiasm young citizens have for civic participation in the course of the 2008 presidential election campaign. The presidential campaign of Barack Obama, and to a lesser extent that of John McCain, were both able to tap into the excitement that young people feel about their country.

The Board of Regents should reverse its plan to cut the state’s lone civics-education specialist. It should restore funding for civics professional development. The board has its eyes set on cost-cutting, but its vision is myopic. Priorities must be set during times of economic uncertainty, but civics education must be one of our priorities. Our newest voters and taxpayers must be given the critical-thinking tools they need to hold their government accountable.

Matt Sledge is director of FairVote Rhode Island.



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March 25th 2009
R.I. Senate passes bill on U.S. Senate vacancies
The Providence Journal

The Rhode Island Senate has now approved its version of a bill to strip the governor of his power to appoint a replacement for a U.S. Senator who dies or leaves office for any other reason in mid-term, and require special elections instead.

March 18th 2009
RI lawmakers give early approval to bill allowing voters to elect US Senate replacements
The Associated Press

Rhode Islanders would elect their U.S. senators when an incumbent dies or leaves office unexpectedly under proposals that have gained new life since the controversy over President Barack Obama's old Senate seat.

March 18th 2009
Still Broken
The New York Times

The New York Times Editorial Board endorses a range of election reforms, including universal voter registration and national standards for election administration.

March 12th 2009
Matt Sledge: Notwithstanding budget crisis, R.I. mustn't cut civics position
The Providence Journal

RHODE ISLAND and America in general are in a fiscal crisis that also seems to be a crisis of government. In response, the Rhode Island Board of Regents plans to cut the sole statewide civics-education position, along with funding for civics professio

March 11th 2009
Senate vacancy bill OK'd in House
The Providence Journal

PROVIDENCE -- A bill that would strip the governor of his power to appoint a replacement in the event of a midyear U.S. Senate vacancy was passed by the House yesterday in a 64-to-6 vote and sent to the Senate.

February 8th 2009
Rep wants U.S. Senate vacancies filled by election
The Pawtucket Times

If the vacancy occurs after that, the seat will be filled during the November election that year. Matthew Sledge of the group Fair Vote RI told the committee that the bill “improves democracy."

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