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Electoral fusion is an arrangement where two or more political parties on a ballot list the same candidate, pooling the votes for that candidate. It is distinct from the process of electoral alliances in that the political parties remain separately listed on the ballot. The practice of electoral fusion in jurisdictions where it exists allows minor parties to influence election results and policy by offering to endorse or nominate a major party's candidate.
Elections for the Australian Senate allow for joint Senate tickets, which "contains members that have been endorsed by more than one registered political party". Examples of fusion tickets include the Liberal Party and Nationals fusion ticket, and the Sex Party and HEMP Party fusion ticket in 2016.
While no party law exists in Hong Kong, candidates in election may list their "political affiliation" on ballots, and there is no restriction regarding the number of political parties or organisations a candidate report to be affiliated with. For example, in the 2004 Legislative Council election Chan Kam Lam, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, and Chan Yuen Han (unrelated), of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, running on different pro-Beijing tickets in the same multi-member constituency, were endorsed by both parties.
The Dutch electoral law accepts common lists. In a common list two or more political parties share a list and often have a common political programme for the election. The participating political parties are identifiable for the voters because the names of these parties are mentioned on the voting paper.
Before the 2014 Panamanian general election most of the presidential candidates were endorsed by coalitions of multiple parties.
Electoral fusion was once widespread in the United States. In the late nineteenth century, however, as minor political parties such as the Populist Party became increasingly successful in using fusion, state legislatures enacted bans against it. One Republican Minnesota state legislator was clear about what his party was trying to do: "We don't propose to allow the Democrats to make allies of the Populists, Prohibitionists, or any other party, and get up combination tickets against us. We can whip them single-handed, but don't intend to fight all creation." The birth of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party made this particular tactical position obsolete. By 1907 the practice had been banned in 18 states; today, fusion as conventionally practiced remains legal in only eight states, namely:
- California (Presidential elections only)
- New York
- South Carolina
Fusion has sometimes been used by other third parties. For example, the Independent Party of Oregon cross-nominated five major party candidates, winning races for the U.S. Senate, Oregon State Treasurer, and the Oregon House of Representatives in 2008. The Libertarian Party of New Hampshire used fusion to elect four members, Calvin Warburton, Finlay Rothhaus, Andy Borsa and Don Gorman, to the New Hampshire state legislature during the early 1990s.
In 1864 the Democratic Party split into two wings over the question of whether to continue the American Civil War or back down and negotiate peace with the Confederacy. The War Democrats fused with the Republicans to elect a Democratic vice president, Andrew Johnson, and re-elect a Republican president, Abraham Lincoln.
In 1872, both the newly formed Liberal Republican Party and the Democratic party nominated the Liberal Republican Horace Greeley as their candidate for President of the United States: "If [The Democratic party] was to stand any chance at all against Grant, it must avoid putting up a candidate of its own who would merely split the opposition vote. It must take Greeley."
In the Presidential election of 1896, William Jennings Bryan was nominated by both the Democratic Party and the Populist Party, albeit with different Vice Presidential candidates, Arthur Sewall for the Democrats and Thomas E. Watson for the Populists. This election led to the downfall of the Populist Party, especially in Southern states (such as Watson's Georgia, as well as North Carolina and Tennessee) where the Populist party had engaged in electoral fusion or other alliances with Republicans against the dominant Bourbon Democrats.
Occasionally, popular candidates for local office have succeeded in being nominated by both Republican and Democratic Parties. In 1946, prior to the current ban on fusion being enacted in that state, Republican Governor of California Earl Warren (a future Chief Justice of the United States) managed to win the nominations of the Republican, Democratic, and Progressive Parties. Similarly, Allan Shivers won the 1952 nominations of both the Democratic and Republican parties in Texas (and had his name appear on the ballot twice, once for each party; Democrat Shivers handily defeated Republican Shivers in the general election).
In 1996 the United States Supreme Court ruled that prohibiting Electoral Fusion does not violate the First Amendment of the United States Constitution (Twin Cities Area New Party v. McKenna, 73 F. 3d 196, 1996).
Donald Trump appeared on the 2016 presidential ballot in California with two ballot labels by his name, as the nominee of both the Republican Party and the American Independent Party, a small far-right party. Trump was the first fusion presidential candidate on the California ballot in at least eighty years.
In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, during the heyday of the Sewer Socialists, the Republican and Democratic parties would agree not to run candidates against each other in some districts, concentrating instead on defeating the Socialists. These candidates were usually called "non-partisan", but sometimes were termed "fusion" candidates instead.
Fusion has the highest profile in the state of New York and particularly New York City, where it was used as a major weapon against Tammany Hall. Most legislative and judicial elections are won by candidates endorsed by more than two parties.
The first fusion gubernatorial election was held in New York in 1854, in which the major party Whig candidate was supported in a fusion candidacy by eleven other political parties, among them the "Strong-Minded Women" Party, the "Anti-Rent" Party and the "Negro" Party.
In order to obtain or maintain automatic ballot access, a party's candidate for governor of New York must receive 50,000 votes on that party's line. The party need not run its own candidate and may cross-nominate another party's candidate, but in order to qualify for automatic ballot access it must receive 50,000 votes on its own line. Gubernatorial vote also determines ballot order, with Row "A" going to the party whose line gains the most votes (regardless of whether or not their candidate actually wins – see the 1994 election for an example).
Automatic ballot access means that no petitions need be filed to gain access to a ballot line for statewide and special elections, and parties may designate candidates through their own conventions. (Legislative candidates must petition onto the ballot regardless of party designation.) For local (non-statewide) office, the number of signatures required to place a candidate on the ballot is much lower for qualified parties, and they are the only parties eligible to hold primary elections. Automatic ballot access is valid for four years, and parties must gain 50,000 votes in the next gubernatorial election to again qualify for automatic ballot access.
Small parties are significant in large part for their fused ballot lines, include the Independence Party of New York, the Working Families Party, and the Conservative Party of New York State. The Independence Party ran its own candidate for governor until 2002, but since then has instead retained its automatic ballot status by running a gubernatorial candidate who was designated by one of the major parties (to date, the party has always cross-endorsed the Democrat in gubernatorial races; it cross-endorses Republicans in lower races, particularly in the New York State Senate, whose Republican conference has strong ties to the party). Previously influential were the Liberal Party of New York and the New York State Right to Life Party, which lost automatic ballot access in 2002.
Other parties, such as the Libertarian Party of New York, the Green Party of New York, and others, now seek ballot access by, first, getting a gubernatorial candidate on the ballot via petition (by collecting 15,000 valid signatures of registered voters), and then by getting 50,000 votes for that candidate on their line. As a general rule, neither party uses electoral fusion, and both rely on their own candidates. The Green Party, which had first achieved ballot status in 1998, failed to gain 50,000 votes and also lost its ballot status in 2002, but regained its line when the 2010 election results were certified. In 2018, Larry Sharpe, the Libertarian Party candidate for governor, received over 90,000 votes, giving the party ballot status for the first time in its history.
The Liberal Party, which had been active since 1944, became defunct as a result of the 2002 gubernatorial election. Andrew Cuomo got the Liberal Party nomination and ran in the Democratic primary against Carl McCall, who had secured the Working Families nomination. Cuomo subsequently dropped out and endorsed McCall, but his name remained on the Liberal party line and failed to gain 50,000 votes, leading to the Liberal Party's failure to retain status and losing its automatic ballot line. A Federal lawsuit (joined by Green, Libertarian, and other parties) enjoined the Board of Elections from discarding enrollment records of these disqualified parties, and also required modifications to allow voters to register themselves in non-ballot parties.
In July 2019, the New York Legislature passed a budget bill that included the creation of a Public Campaign Financing Commission, which was given authority to investigate and create rules for public financing of campaigns. The Conservative Party of New York and the Working Families Party each filed lawsuits against the state in response, alleging that the commission was a disguised attempt to end fusion voting and thus the existence of New York's third parties.
Prior to 1958, Oregon practiced a form of fusion that required the state to list multiple nominating parties on the candidate's ballot line. Sylvester Pennoyer was elected governor in 1886 and 1890 as a candidate of the Democratic and People's Parties. In 1906, seven members of the Oregon House were also elected as candidates of the People's Party and either the Democratic or Republican parties. In 2008, a lawsuit was brought by the Independent Party of Oregon against the Oregon Secretary of State claiming that modifications to the ballot design statute in 1995 once again required the state to list multiple nominating parties on the candidate's ballot line. The lawsuit gave rise to legislation to allow candidates to list up to three party labels after their name. This bill passed both houses of the Oregon legislature during the 2009 legislative session. Governor Ted Kulongoski signed the bill into law on July 23, 2009.
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- The Power of Fusion Politics
- History of Fusion Politics in 1890s North Carolina
- National Open Ballot Project, an effort to promote fusion voting in the U.S.A.
- Independent Party Sues to get Correct Ballot Labels In Oregon
- Cross-Endorsement by Political Parties