Mar 31 2009

Semi-fusion voting

Published by at 8:06 pm under Oregon

If the Oregon Senate follows the track of the Oregon House (which in this case voted 52-8 in favor), Oregon may make one of the more interesting changes in Northwest election laws in years, but which once was commonplace: Something resembling fusion voting.

A century and more ago, many parts of the country (and the Northwest was prominent in this) had two major and a number of minor parties which often would split support of various candidates. Seldom would a candidate get both the Democratic and Republican nominations, but they might also pick up support of one or more smaller parties, and these levels of support could be enough to make a difference. (The Idaho governor who got the largest-ever voting percentage, in 1896, was a Democrat – but he got it with the support of a batch of splinters as well.)

Some states (New York, for one) still do remnants of this kind of voting but the Northwest has not for a long time. But Oregon, for one, has always allowed candidates to pick up the nominations of more than one party in a single election. It just hasn’t placed more than one party’s support on the ballot – you have to choose.

Now that seems likely to change, if House Bill 2414 passes – “will allow candidates for partisan office the option of listing the names of more than one nominating party on the general election ballot (i.e., Ben Westlund Democratic, Independent or Vicki Berger Republican, Independent).”

You may have picked up a trend line there; the new Oregon Independent Party did quite a bit of cross-nomination last cycle and probably will again, and the joint listing on the ballot could substantially increase the value of the joint nominations. (Some other smaller parties have done likewise; the Independent’s press release on the subject today notes that bill co-sponsor Representative Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, in 2008 got both the Democratic and the Working Families nominations.)

There’s a good chance, by the way, that the Senate will go along: Nearly half of the members of the Senate already have put down their names in support.

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