FairVote Rhode Island General Assembly Candidate Survey Results:

Rod Driver

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Office Sought Representative
District District 39
Address Richmond
Party Democrat
1. This year the Rhode Island General Assembly passed a state-based plan to elect the president by national popular vote. This plan would become active when enough states had passed it to ensure that the candidate with the most votes in all 50 states would be the winner. Do you support this plan? Support
2. As passed by the General Assembly this year, do you support allowing 16 and 17 year olds to pre-register to vote, so that they would be automatically registered and able to vote when they turn 18? Undecided
3. Do you support initiatives that would join Rhode Island with 19 other states and state parties in allowing 17 year olds who will be 18 by the general election and are otherwise registered to vote in the preceding primary election? Support
4. Should a course on civics education that includes a class on how to vote in Rhode Island be required of RI students before they graduate? Undecided
5. Should civics education in Rhode Island be based around a standardized, statewide curriculum that includes the mechanics of voting and participation and the history of suffrage in Rhode Island? Undecided
6. Should all students get the opportunity to register or pre-register to vote before they graduate high school and when at the Division of Motor Vehicles? Undecided
7. Do you support measures that would move Rhode Island toward universal registration, like permanent voter registration within the state, opt-out (rather than opt-in) registration at the DMV, and automatic updating of voter addresses? Undecided
8. Right now, vacant US Senate seats in RI are filled by gubernatorial appointment for up to two years. Do you support reforms that would create special elections to fill vacant US Senate seats in the same manner that US House vacancies are filled? Support
9. Do you support removing the single party lever, which allows voters to vote a straight party ticket, from the Rhode Island ballot? Support
10. Right now, if a voter does not show up on the rolls at their polling place, they may fill out a provisional ballot. These ballots are only counted in federal races. Do you support counting provisional ballots cast by registered voters in as many elections as possible? Support
11. Many cities and states are now considering ranked choice voting methods to allow for fuller representation, save money on runoff-elections, and give citizens in the armed services a full vote in runoff elections. Do you support piloting ranked choice voting methods like instant runoff voting in Rhode Island localities? Support
12. Additional comments.

"Question 1. The “national-popular-vote plan” for presidential elections ought to be a no-brainer for anyone who believes in “one person – one vote.” Watching the General Assembly debate on this, I absolutely could not understand the opposition. If anyone wants to make RI “relevant” in presidential campaigns, this proposed interstate compact is the obvious way to do it.

Questions 2, 6 and 7 are less obvious. When I first started running for office in the 1980s I personally registered 1,000 Rhode Islanders at their homes. Later I discovered that 2/3 of them didn’t bother to vote. (Since someone came to their door to register them, perhaps they were expecting someone to bring the voting machine to them also.) Today, as a candidate, I meet people every day who proudly proclaim that they don’t vote. It may not be beneficial to urge such irresponsible people to register. Having people on the rolls who will never vote adds to the expense of political campaigns and it adds to the waste stream when these people discard political mailings without even opening them.

Questions 4 and 5 on civics class also leave me undecided. As an elected delegate to the RI Constitutional Convention of 1986 and then an elected state representative from 1987 – 1994, I quickly found that civics class bore little resemblance to the workings of the RI General Assembly. Forget about listening to public testimony in committees and then deliberating the merits of a bill in the committee and perhaps on the floor of the House or Senate. What really determines the success or failure of a piece of legislation is the support or opposition of the leaders (House Speaker, Senate President and Majority Leaders). And they are influenced by professional lobbyists who give money to their campaigns. If civics class taught what really goes on, we might have a revolt in RI.

Question 9 is something I strongly support. I have testified at the statehouse on more than one occasion for bills to remove the “straight-party lever” from the ballot. Most legislators are not interested, because the “party lever” benefits most of the incumbents and it defeats independents and “third-party” candidates. There is a particularly blatant example of the downside in one of my towns. A gentleman running as a Democrat elected to the town council in 2006 wouldn’t have had a chance if voters had had to individually pick his name. Question 11 on “ranked-choice” (or “instant-runoff”) voting is another reform for which I have enthusiastically testified. (My own first election success was in the race for delegate to the 1986 RI Constitutional Convention. There were six candidates, and I won with a strong plurality – but not a majority.) It makes sense to demonstrate “IRV” in a small election as they’ve done in California -- in Berkley perhaps. But here again, the present system benefits incumbents. So it’s tough to get them to support such reform."

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