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Question 2: Fusion or ConFusion?

Question 1 gets all the press, but there are two more questions on the ballot this year, and I’m going to talk about them. Question 2 is about ballot fusion, and I think it’s a good idea.

The short description of Question 2: A candidate can be endorsed by more than one party; when you vote you get to choose which candidate and which party you support. For longer descriptions, the explanations on the state election site and the Yes on 2 site have good sample ballots and more text.

The intent of the question is to enable voters to signal their support for a particular party or position more specifically than supporting a single candidate. For instance, a voter might strongly support gay marriage. The Democrats sometimes have candidates that support gay marriage, but sometimes not. There is a particular candidate who supports gay marriage, and he is the Democratic candidate and he is endorsed by the Marriage Equality party. Voters can choose to vote for the candidate on the Democratic line or the Marriage Equality line. The votes all count towards the candidate, but voters in favor of gay marriage can signal that fact by voting on the Marriage Equality line rather than the Democratic line. Theoretically, other Democrats will see how many votes that was, and adjust their positions accordingly.

The opponents of this question say that it will lead to voter confusion. I think that New York state effectively squashes that argument. New York has several third parties that cross-endorse candidates. The Conservative Party is most commonly cited. In New York, Republicans without Conservative support have a tough row to hoe. And, before you think this whole Question 2 thing is a conservative conspiracy, remember that it’s endorsed by the Working Family Party and a series of unions, and they aren’t conservatives.

The real opponents to this question are the two major parties. They have the most to lose in this – cross-endorsement weakens their grip on power and opens the door for another party to, just maybe, become “major.”

There is another change in this law that hasn’t been mentioned on other websites. The first is that third parties will be recognized by the state for 4 years, not 2, after they meet the 3% requirement in a state election. That’s a big deal. Under current law it’s easy in Massachusetts to get recognition in off-presidential years like this one, but very hard in presidential years like 2006. In 2004 there were 4 parties in the state; this year there are 2. This law change would make it easier for third parties to build over time rather than appear and disappear on a biannual basis. I still can’t figure out why both the Libertarian and Green parties are opposed to it.

I think the effect of this will be to redistribute a bit of power from the major parties to other organized groups. I think that is a good thing. I also tend to give voters credit. I’m not worried about them getting confused. They are plenty smart enough to see their candidate on the ballot and cast their vote.

Vote yes on 2!


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Time: November 6, 2006, 9:29 pm

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