Fusion for Dummies

Election season is upon us, and you know what that means—idiotic trickery dreamed up by campaign hacks and political consultants.

Consider: New York election law allows candidates to run for office under multiple party labels. Thanks to the state’s “fusion candidacy” laws, a smaller party—say, New York’s Independence party—can endorse a Democrat or Republican, and that candidate appears on the ballot as its nominee. The upside for the smaller party is that if it garners more than 50,000 votes, it has a guaranteed place on the next election cycle’s ballot. The upside for the candidate is that his or her name appears on the ballot more than once.

New York statehouse candidates of both parties do the same thing, as a report in the New York Times pointed out, with the weird result that Governor Andrew Cuomo will appear on the same Independence party ballot line with, for example, Rep. Chris Collins, who has called the governor “a bully, a blackmailer, and an extortionist.” Also on the Independence line will be congressional Republicans whom Cuomo is trying to defeat by funding their Democratic opponents.

It’s not just New York. The strategy of fusion candidacies is practiced in some other states, too, though perhaps not as competently. In South Carolina, Democratic gubernatorial candidate James Smith tried to get the nominations of the Green, Libertarian, and Working Families parties. Evidently Smith’s genius consultants weren’t aware of the state’s “sore loser” law that bans candidates from running in a race in which they’ve already lost a primary. On August 4, the South Carolina Libertarian party voted against Smith as its nominee—meaning he’s now lost a primary and may be ineligible to run in the general election. The Smith campaign insists his name was “withdrawn” before the vote, but neither the timing nor the legality of the alleged withdrawal is clear at this point.

The practice of fusion candidacies is a deliberate attempt to take advantage of the dumb and the uninformed—people who vote for a candidate because they see his or her name listed more often than others. There’s no evidence that it even boosts the candidate’s overall numbers, but consultants get their clients to do it anyway. We suspect Smith will find a way to stay on the ballot in November, but it would serve him right if he couldn’t.

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