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Fusion: Candidates in multiplicity

In Oregon today, as in most states, you got your Democratic candidate for governor, your Republican candidate for governor, your minor party candidates for governor – and no sharing, please. Each candidate picks one party, and each party picks different candidates.

Was not always thus, as Lou Jacobson, a deputy editor at Roll Call (the D.C. Capitol Hill newspaper), points out in his latest column. For a century and more, until about a century ago, multiple political parties often cross-endorsed candidates. (The candidate who was the top vote getter ever among Idaho candidates for governor, Frank Steunenberg in 1896, was one of them, collecting endorsements from five of the six parties on the ballot.) The practice is uncommon now in most of the country; occasionally it still happens in New York.

Jacobson points out that an initiative to allow fusion voting is on the ballot now in Massachusetts. The idea is to allow smaller groups to become part of a joint process in nominating and electing candidates.

We note that here because he also says this: “Already, Oregon’s WFP [Working Families Party] is trying to enact fusion voting through the Legislature. If that fails, it may try to circulate a ballot initiative, said Ben Healey, communications director for the Mass Ballot Freedom Campaign, the group that is sponsoring the Massachusetts initiative. Other states where activists have been trying to promote the idea include Ohio, Missouri and Washington.”

This could be transformative for some minor parties. We’ll be watching.

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