Rhode Island Primary Stays In March After Veto

This story was written by Jenna Stark, Brown Daily Herald
Gov. Donald Carcieri '65 vetoed a bill Monday to advance the Rhode Island Presidential Preference Primary up a month from March 4 to Feb. 5.

In his veto message, Carcieri stated he would have supported the bill if lawmakers had acted earlier in the year, but that moving the date would "place an undue hardship on local communities who have planned fiscally and otherwise for the upcoming 2008 election cycle."

Carcieri received numerous requests from canvassers and town clerks to veto the bill due to the lack of time the bill's passage would have given canvassers to prepare for the upcoming primaries. In a Nov. 1 letter, Sandra Giovanelli, a Cumberland town clerk, wrote, "Moving up the date of the Presidential Preference Primary will create an unnecessary burden on all the local boards of canvassers because of its late action and impact crucial deadlines that are already set in place."

The bill to move the primary's date was intended to give Rhode Island citizens a greater say in the nominating process, said Darrell West, professor of political science and director of the Taubman Center for Public Policy.

"Most people expect the parties to have chosen their candidate by March," he said. "Rhode Island voters will have no say in the nominating process. People are expecting there to be a nominee by mid-February."

Another concern for Rhode Island voters is that presidential candidates will ignore the small state. "Rhode Island means we might as well be a foreign country," said David Talan, a local Republican organizer.

"Unfortunately, Rhode Island is so small and it tends to vote Democratic," he said. "Generally, the candidates only campaign in the states they feel are wide-open, so we never get to see the candidates."

West agreed that the veto won't help Rhode Island voters.

"We're not going to get much attention from the candidates other than fundraising," he said. "I don't think Rhode Island is going to get a lot of attention at any point in time, but the race is almost certainly going to be over by March so our votes are not going to count for much."

Talan said the veto of the bill could cause a problem for Republican voters. Democratic voters assuming that Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., has the primary "sewed up" could choose to vote in the Republican primary rather than the Democratic primary and vote for the most liberal Republican candidate, consequently skewing the Republican vote.

But Republicans will benefit from having additional time to place candidates on the ballot.

"Rhode Island is one of the two most difficult states for candidates to get on the ballot. In Rhode Island, candidates have to go through a really bizarre process," Talan said.

This process involves filing a declaration and getting 1,000 signatures of registered voters, he said.

"Since (state legislators) waited until the last minute, they compressed all the dates," Talan said. "So it would've made things difficult.".

The later primary date also helps non-mainstream candidates, said Gabriel Kussin '09, president of the Brown Democrats. "I think as a country we are moving towards a national primary day, but having the primaries spread out helps the smaller, lesser-known candidates because it helps spread their resources."

Had the bill been signed, the College Republicans would have been pressed for time to canvass for their candidates, said Marc Frank '09, president of the College Republicans.

"Nationally, what is happening on the primaries is a very bad thing. The fact that everyone keeps pushing up these primaries. ... It just seems a little silly," he said.

Kussin agreed that the proposed bill was rushed.

"This could have been done a lot earlier -- by trying to get it moved up so close to the date, it puts an undue burden on the canvassers and the election officers," he said.

The Brown Democrats will not change their upcoming plans due to the veto of the bill.

"We are going to encourage people to vote no matter the date of the primaries," Kussin said.

State Senator Leo Raptakis, the Democrat who sponsored the bill, said there will likely not be an attempt to override the veto due to lack of time, according to the Associated Press article.
© 2007 Brown Daily Herald via U-WIRE