The decision over whether New York should continue to allow candidates to run on multiple party ballot lines comes down to voter choice.
Does the current system give voters more of a choice to express their views to the candidates and the parties about the direction they want their government to take?
If it does, as it appears to, then New York should reject efforts to eliminate so-called “fusion voting” and allow the current system to continue as is.
This sounds like a very inside-baseball type of discussion. But it really affects ordinary voters and political candidates at the grassroots level. So voters have an interest in how this debate turns out.
Supporters say the practice allows third parties to have a voice in the traditional two-party system, where they’d normally be locked out. And they say it’s good for New Yorkers, in that it supports the third-party system.
Third-party candidates can use the influence garnered by their party’s ballot position to run for office, which further helps boost visibility and support for other third-party candidates and policies.
Without the ability to support and influence major-party candidates with their own ballot line, the third-party system in the state would be weakened, supporters say.
Opponents of the practice say having one candidate running on several party lines confuses voters by creating a cumbersome ballot, invites corruption by allowing third-party officials to use their endorsement as leverage for political patronage jobs, and allows minor parties to have undue influence over major-party platforms (usually pushing Democratic candidates further left and Republican candidates further right).
Opponents also say third-party candidates that just endorse other parties’ candidates and don’t run their own candidates for office aren’t really that strong anyway and shouldn’t have the influence awarded to them by a ballot line.
Certainly, having one candidate running on multiple lines is odd, but is it really confusing? We think most people are intelligent enough to know that when they support a candidate on a particular ballot line, they’re also saying they support that party’s positions.
As for pushing the major party left or right, there’s validity to that. But voters can decide that for themselves.
If major party candidates don’t want to be associated with a third party, they can turn down the endorsement. Or the major parties can make a stronger case for its positions and candidates.
As for using the endorsement as leverage to get party members in positions of power, that again is up to voters to decide how much power to give third parties.
Without third-parties being able to endorse major-party candidates and gain attention and money for themselves and their positions, New Yorkers might be deprived of the opportunity to support these positions in the future.
Given the benefits of New York’s fusion voting system in giving citizens a greater choice at the ballot, state lawmakers should resist efforts to abandon it.