Dispute over counting RI pension settlement ballots

by ABC6 Chief Political Reporter Mark Curtis


The ink is barely dry on a proposed pension settlement in Rhode Island and already there is controversy.

The ballots for union voting are not yet printed.

So we've made a mock–up that will underscore a growing concern.

Employees can vote “yes” or “no” on the deal, but if they simply choose not to return the ballot, it will count as a “yes” vote.

“I would say it's not democratic. It's an awful way to vote and I think it should be different,” said State Rep. Doreen Costa, (R) North Kingstown.

Lawyers for the employees and pension holders disagree, saying the voting procedure has been upheld in other union votes and class action lawsuits.

“This is a way that is consistent with and, comparable to, what's done in other class actions. We believe it provides maximum opportunity for people to express their position,” said Lynette Labinger, attorney for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the State pension reform.

ABC6 Chief Political Reporter Mark Curtis said, “Getting enough 'yes' votes on the pension settlement is seen as critical, because if any one of the six employee groups involved votes 'no,' the deal is dead for everyone.”

Governor Chafee and Treasurer Raimondo, both support the voting procedure.

Mark Curtis question: Do you at least see the point of critics who say this doesn't seem very democratic. If you are voting 'no' you have to send in your ballot, but if the ballot never comes back it's automatically a 'yes' vote?

“Again there is precedence for this. This isn't something new that we invented here and it's agreed to by all parties,” said Governor Lincoln Chafee, (D) Rhode Island.

Critics are furious.

“Oh this is stacked. This is stacked, beyond. This is a done deal. You might as well just rubber stamp this and say it's a ‘yes' with the pension deal and move on,” said State Rep. Costa.

Critics urge union members who oppose settlement, to mail in their ballots when they get them.