Does Fusion Voting Offer Americans a Way Out of the Partisan Morass?

The respondents also seemed open to fusion voting, once it was explained to them; 58 percent said New Jersey should reinstate the practice, and 72 percent said that third-party candidates almost never won elections because of the perception that choosing them would be a “wasted” vote.

Beau Tremitiere, a lawyer at Protect Democracy, said that fusion voting “allows voters all over the political spectrum who care deeply about democracy and the rule of law to work together effectively,” adding, “With their own ballot line, they can play a decisive role in our elections and stem the rising tide of anti-democratic extremism.”

Fusion voting hasn’t always pushed the two major parties toward the center, however; the Working Families Party aims to tug the Democratic Party to the left on economic policy, for instance, even as it usually backs Democratic candidates in general elections.

In Oregon, however, the Independent Party, a centrist fusion party founded in 2007, has generally supported candidates who back its views on overhauling campaign finance. This year, the party endorsed a slate of mostly Democratic candidates for federal office, but declined to make a choice in the heated race for governor.

Eli Lehrer, the president of the R Street Institute, a center-right think tank, said that fusion voting worked best when it encouraged cross-party coalitions.

He pointed to New York and Connecticut, where candidates have courted support from fusion parties when they “want to send a signal that they are a different kind of candidate.”

In its heyday, the Liberal Party exerted its greatest influence on New York politics when it backed Republicans: It supported John Lindsay for mayor of New York in 1965, for instance, and Charles Goodell for senator in 1970.

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