Common Questions

It's new. It's exciting. And we can't wait to share more details...

How do you pronounce "RI Rank"?

We pronounce it "rye-rank", but if "are-eye-rank" or "Rhode Island rank" are more your preference, have at it!

Who funds RI Rank?

RI Rank is self-funded and runs on the work of volunteers. It is a not-for-profit organization, owned by the Rhode Island Free Press Co. We accept no contributions of any kind from elected officials, political organizations, "think tanks", PACs, random people, etc. RI Rank is built on trust - the public's trust that the information we provide is unbiased and accurate.

But I love what you do - how can I donate?

Most of our overhead has been generously provided to us at no cost and our workers are all volunteers. We do not accept outside funding and have no future plans to do so. 

If you love our work, the best contribution you can make is to spread the word. We want the RI electorate to be one that is educated on the decision their representatives have made on their behalf.

How did RI Rank come about?

Five years ago, one of our founders reached out to their state representative, a Democrat, with a few questions on her stances. The representative responded with all conservative stances, and volunteered several more conservative stances. In fact, the representative revealed that she held no progressive or liberal stances at all, but ran for years as a Democrat. After researching other legislators, It quickly became clear that a "D" or "R" next to a candidate's name was largely meaningless in Rhode Island. However, RI voters still lean heavily on party affiliation when choosing who to vote for when they are not familiar with the candidates. RI Rank aims to change that by providing easy to understand ratings that help voters determine if an incumbent is serving the public's interests and should be re-elected.

How often are ratings updated?

Ratings based on a legislator's votes and actions in the State House will be updated after each legislative session is complete, in the summer following the session.

Collection of ratings based on actual legislator performance with constituents is conducted year round and aggregate ratings are updated twice per year.

What is the purpose of RI Rank?

In one word: accountability. Everything we do and everything about the RI Rank project is grounded in one principle: holding public servants accountable for the job they do. If your state Senator is serving the public good, we want to make sure everyone knows. If they are self-dealing and/or voting for their own interests, you will know about it, in a way that is easy to understand.

How does RI Rank determine which bills apply to a legislator's ratings?

We rely on two major sources for our ratings: 1) Established nonpartisan organizations such as the ACLU and Common Cause, and 2) Actual Rhode Island residents. Unlike partisan organizations that serve a special interest, the organizations whose ratings we have chosen to use have no agenda beyond a long history of supporting causes that are in the public good - even in instances where they may not be popular decisions. In the future, we may evaluate and rate certain bills that are not covered by one of these organizations. In these instances, the bill must have proven evidence of being in the public good (with sources) and/or be an established standard for a healthy democracy. There are many bills that will not be included in our ratings either because they are irrelevant to our mission of accountability, or there is not enough evidence to allow us to determine if a yes/no vote is in the public good.

All bills are rated weeks/months after they are voted on, at the end of the year's session. We do not guide or lobby legislators in any manner on whether a yes/no vote will improve their rating. 

Real-world performance ratings are conducted by our army of volunteer Rhode Island residents willing to provide details of personal interactions with their legislators. Want to help? Sign up today!

Are you concerned about legislators cheating?

We have taken a significant amount of time to evaluate and design ways to impede legislators from cheating our system. However, learning about RI Rank and adjusting with how/when they respond to constituents is not cheating - it is one of the main purposes of this project. If a legislator previously might blow off constituent requests or be hard to reach, and after learning of RI Rank begins responding sooner and is more helpful in order to achieve a positive rating - we've accomplished our mission. We welcome this improvement from all legislators. After all, it's part of their job.

Regarding other forms of cheating, such as legislators or their friends/family posing as constituents to submit "fake" reports - we've implemented a thorough vetting system and filtering algorithm to ensure this form of astroturfing is ineffective.