Fusion research

I have a confession to make: I haven’t decided which party to vote for in the presidential election next week.
Of course, I phrased that statement carefully. As any regular reader of this blog knows, I long ago decided which candidate to vote for. But this month I changed my voter registration to New York from California, and here in New York there are two ways to vote for Barack Obama.
What’s going on is that New York is one of the few states with an active fusion voting system. Here a political party is permitted to cross-endorse another party’s candidate, so that voters can express different preferences from one of the major parties without feeling that they’re throwing their votes away. So there are two lines on the ballot with Obama’s name: one for the Democratic Party, and one for the Working Families Party. Similarly, John McCain’s name appears three times, under the Republican, Conservative, and Independence party lines.
The result of this is that, while California’s minor parties are pretty much all total crackpots, the electoral system in New York has the potential to reward serious and pragmatic third parties that align with a major party most of the time, but can withhold an endorsement in a close race and thus have an influence on the outcome.
For a while it seems that this created an effective four-party system with the Conservative Party to the right of the Republicans and the Liberal Party to the left of the Democrats. Recently (in 2002) the Liberal Party failed to qualify for the ballot (you need 50,000 votes in the gubernatorial election) and the Working Families Party became the sole progressive alternative. Meanwhile the Conservative Party is still around, and there’s also the Independence Party which appears to have no ideology and seems to endorse whoever is the most mavericky, so they’re backing John McCain.
So, back to my dilemma. Back in 1998 when I was first qualified to vote (having turned 18 just after the ’96 election), I was only leaning Democratic. After eight years of Republican governance, I have become a staunch Democrat, and if I were still in California I’d vote a straight Dem ticket. But since I’d like to see more leadership from Dems on progressive issues, a vote on the Working Families line would help send that message.
I’ve thought of a compromise. I’ll vote Democratic on the federal offices, since this is a year when I’m not just voting for the least bad alternative: I’m proud to be a Democrat and I have no reservations about supporting our presidential ticket. But in the elections for the state legislature, I’ll vote Working Families to keep them honest. (Either way I’m voting for the same candidates–in all of the races on my ballot Working Families has endorsed the Democratic candidate.)

12 thoughts on “Fusion research

  1. Mason

    Funky. Which other states have fusion voting? I didn’t know we had that. The only state in which I’ve ever been registered is California, as when I was at Cornell and Georgia Tech my time there was temporary from the beginning and I figured I would just lazily stay as a California registrant until I found a permanent job somewhere. (I should have found some connection to Ohio or something to be able to have registered there.)

  2. Mylanda

    In my county in CA we had an outlet… Orange farmers. Yes, they always had a candidate, and I always voted for them whenever I didn’t like (or wasn’t sure of) either main party candidate. I figured, “Might as well, I at least know-to first order-what their special interest actually is.”, and I like oranges.

  3. JSpur

    I like the concept of, the political party is named for its special interest. Instead of calling itself the Republican Party, the ol’ GOP could be something like “Guns ‘N Moses.”

  4. Josh

    You could always combine the recent Sen. Craig scandal with their social policy proclivities and rename the Republican Party “Queens of the Stone Age”…

  5. Lemming

    Mason — you know you want to just go ahead take it all the way. I would love to see a Crash Test Dummy party. I’d finally feel represented.

  6. Josh

    I’d like to point out although I am proudly, publically voting NO on Prop 8, I would not be a big supporter of the Butthole Surfers party.
    *ba-dum ching*

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