Monday, November 06, 2006

In Defense of Fusion Voting

As we have expressed previously, we support New York’s process of fusion voting (allowing candidates to be nominated by more than one party and appear on the ballot multiple times). Unfortunately, a New York Times editorial yesterday railed against fusion voting as a way for third parties to gain “a disproportionate amount of power.”

We disagree with this assessment and the argument that “the best way to understand the system is to follow the fortunes of the now-defunct Liberal Party.” The Times rightly explained that, over time, the Liberal Party began to care more about patronage for its supporters than it did about championing liberal ideals. However, we fail to see how this example is illustrative of the fusion system. There is no reason that third parties should be more susceptible to pressures to provide patronage than the major parties. Moreover, the political marketplace eventually dispatched the Liberal Party, which was effectively replaced by the more genuine Working Families Party.

We believe that there are several reasons that this mechanism is a positive one for any state that adopts it:
  • Fusion promotes effective third parties and encourages turnout. Rather than “throwing away” their votes on third party candidates with no hope of winning, voters can express their support for the third party’s agenda while still having a direct influence on which candidate is elected. Citizens therefore feel empowered and may be more likely to turn out to vote.

  • Fusion encourages the major parties to take positions on important issues. The strong third parties fostered by fusion voting can publicize tough issues that the two major parties would ignore in a two-way race.

  • Fusion can give voters an influence over those important issues. Once tough issues are brought to the fore, fusion voting allows voters to express their opinions more clearly. A right-leaning voter might choose to endorse the Republican nominee on the Right to Life line to express her opposition to abortion. Without fusion, the voter would be unable to indicate that outlawing abortion is her strongest priority. If the New York Times is right that patronage is a problem in New York, then we should attack the problem at its source by making sure that government appointees are qualified to hold their positions.
The elimination of fusion voting would not be an effective solution to this problem—in effect, it would simply give the major parties a monopoly over patronage. Moreover, eliminating fusion would make it more difficult for third parties to strive and contribute to the political process in the state.

Click here to read our policy paper on fusion voting.

Categories: General, Voting

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