Electoral fusion

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Electoral fusion is an arrangement where two or more political parties on a ballot list the same candidate, pooling the votes for that candidate. It is distinct from the process of electoral alliances in that the political parties remain separately listed on the ballot. The practice of electoral fusion in jurisdictions where it exists allows minor parties to influence election results and policy by offering to endorse or nominate a major party's candidate.

Electoral fusion is also known as fusion voting, cross endorsement, multiple party nomination, multi-party nomination, plural nomination, and ballot freedom.[1][2]


Electoral fusion is currently used only in provincial elections in Corrientes, Formosa, Jujuy, La Rioja, Neuquén, Tierra del Fuego and Tucumán Provinces.

In the past it was used in Buenos Aires, Chaco, Chubut, Córdoba, Mendoza, Río Negro, San Juan, Santiago del Estero Provinces and Buenos Aires City.


Elections for the Australian Senate allow for joint Senate tickets, which "contains members that have been endorsed by more than one registered political party".[3] Examples of fusion tickets include the Liberal Party and Nationals fusion ticket, and the Sex Party and HEMP Party fusion ticket in 2016.[4]

Hong Kong[edit]

While no party law exists in Hong Kong, candidates in election may list their "political affiliation" on ballots, and there is no restriction regarding the number of political parties or organisations a candidate report to be affiliated with. For example, in the 2004 Legislative Council election Chan Kam Lam, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, and Chan Yuen Han (unrelated), of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, running on different pro-Beijing tickets in the same multi-member constituency, were endorsed by both parties.


Electoral fusion is provided for and regulated by the Italian electoral system for general elections, in order to get a majority bonus. However the parties can run as stand-alones.

That is also provided for administrative divisions, to get the majority bonus in support of the candidate who gets the relative chief office.


The Dutch electoral law accepts common lists. In a common list two or more political parties share a list and often have a common political programme for the election. The participating political parties are identifiable for the voters because the names of these parties are mentioned on the voting paper.


In Panama electoral fusions are very frequently in presidential elections.


In the 2010 presidential elections, Senator Loren Legarda announced her bid for vice president and was announced as running mate of Nacionalista Party presidential candidate Senator Manny Villar.

United States[edit]

Electoral fusion was once widespread in the United States. The tactic was fairly widespread across the nation during much of the late 19th century as agrarian interest groups used fusion to forge a ‘‘temporary alliance between third parties and the weaker of the two major parties, usually the Democrats in the Midwest and West’’ (Argersinger, 1980, p. 288). This strategy allowed minor parties who had the capacity to win local elections, but who could not successfully field candidates in statewide or national elections, to place another party’s candidate on their own party line.[5] Supporters of the minor party could then vote for the cross-endorsed candidate on their own party line. Argersinger (1980) argues that this sometimes helped ‘‘maintain a significant third party tradition by guaranteeing that dissenters’ votes could be more than symbolic protest’’ (p. 288).[6] However, as minor political parties such as the Populist Party became increasingly successful in using fusion, state legislatures enacted bans against it. One Republican Minnesota state legislator was clear about what his party was trying to do: "We don't propose to allow the Democrats to make allies of the Populists, Prohibitionists, or any other party, and get up combination tickets against us. We can whip them single-handed, but don't intend to fight all creation."[7] The birth of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party made this particular tactical position obsolete. By 1907, the practice had been banned in 18 states; today, fusion as conventionally practiced remains legal in only eight states, namely:

In several other states,[which?] notably New Hampshire, fusion is legal when primary elections are won by write-in candidates.

Fusion has sometimes been used by other third parties. For example, the Independent Party of Oregon cross-nominated five major party candidates, winning races for the U.S. Senate, Oregon State Treasurer, and the Oregon House of Representatives in 2008. The Libertarian Party of New Hampshire used fusion to elect four members, Calvin Warburton, Finlay Rothhaus, Andy Borsa and Don Gorman, to the New Hampshire state legislature during the early 1990s.

In 1864 the Democratic Party split into two wings over the question of whether to continue the American Civil War or back down and negotiate peace with the Confederacy. The War Democrats fused with the Republicans to elect a Democratic vice president, Andrew Johnson, and re-elect a Republican president, Abraham Lincoln.

In 1872, both the newly formed Liberal Republican Party and the Democratic party nominated the Liberal Republican Horace Greeley as their candidate for President of the United States: "If [The Democratic party] was to stand any chance at all against Grant, it must avoid putting up a candidate of its own who would merely split the opposition vote. It must take Greeley."[8]

In the Presidential election of 1896, William Jennings Bryan was nominated by both the Democratic Party and the Populist Party, albeit with different vice presidential candidates, Arthur Sewall for the Democrats and Thomas E. Watson for the Populists. This election led to the downfall of the Populist Party, especially in Southern states (such as Watson's Georgia, as well as North Carolina and Tennessee) where the Populist party had engaged in electoral fusion or other alliances with Republicans against the dominant Bourbon Democrats.[9][10]

Occasionally, popular candidates for local office have succeeded in being nominated by both Republican and Democratic Parties. In 1946, prior to the current ban on fusion in state elections being enacted in that state, Republican Governor of California Earl Warren (a future Chief Justice of the United States) managed to win the nominations of the Republican, Democratic, and Progressive Parties. Similarly, Allan Shivers won the 1952 nominations of both the Democratic and Republican parties in Texas (and had his name appear on the ballot twice, once for each party; Democrat Shivers handily defeated Republican Shivers in the general election).

In the 1936, 1940, 1944, the American Labor Party and the Liberal Party of New York endorsed and nominated Franklin Roosevelt. FDR won the state of New York with enough votes on the Democratic line in 1936, but in 1940 and 1944 he would not have won New York without the support of votes gained via fusion.

Major and Minor Party Vote in New York State for President, 1944
Republican Democrat American Labor Party Liberal Party
Vote Total 2,907,618 2,439,931 475,365 318,171
Source Daily Worker, November 9, 1944

In 1948 elections, the Liberal Party of New York endorsed and nominated Harry S. Truman, by completely ignoring the Southern delegation of the Democratic Party.

In Twin Cities Area New Party v. McKenna (1996), the United States Supreme Court ruled, on a 6–3 vote, that prohibiting electoral fusion does not violate the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.[11]

Donald Trump appeared on the 2016 presidential ballot in California with two ballot labels by his name,[12] as the nominee of both the Republican Party and the American Independent Party, a small far-right party. Trump was the first fusion presidential candidate on the California ballot in at least eighty years.[13]



In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, during the heyday of the Sewer Socialists, the Republican and Democratic parties would agree not to run candidates against each other in some districts, concentrating instead on defeating the Socialists. These candidates were usually called "non-partisan", but sometimes were termed "fusion" candidates instead.[14]

New York[edit]

Fusion has the highest profile in the state of New York and particularly New York City, where it was used as a major weapon against Tammany Hall. Most legislative and judicial elections are won by candidates endorsed by more than two parties.

The first fusion gubernatorial election was held in New York in 1854, in which the major party Whig candidate was supported in a fusion candidacy by eleven other political parties, among them the Strong-Minded Women Party, the Anti-Rent Party and the Negro Party.

In 1936, labor leaders in New York City took advantage of fusion and founded the American Labor Party (ALP) with the immediate goal of providing a way for New Yorkers who despised the city’s infamous Tammany Hall political machine to support Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), without casting a vote for the Democratic Party. In its first showing at the polls, the party garnered a significant amount of the vote in New York City, but was not important with regard to Roosevelt’s victory. In the 1937 election cycle the ALP built on it past performance by electing members to the city council, and by delivering so many votes to Mayor LaGuardia that the New York Times ran a front page article declaring that the ALP held the balance of power in city and state politics. The importance of the ALP was demonstrated again in 1938 when the party provided the margin of victory for the Democratic candidate for Governor, and in 1940 when the ALP did the same for President Roosevelt. In the 1944 presidential election, fusion provided CIO unions in New York an opportunity to build and back a labor party, an uncommon occurrence in the United States. Labor leaders knew that fusion permitted them to field candidates and win elections on the American Labor Party line in local elections, and to back Democrats in statewide or national races where they did not have the capacity to field successful candidates. Given the presence of fusion in New York, the Greater New York Industrial Union Council (GNYIUC), the CIO's local labor federation in New York, formally affiliated with the party making it the political arm of the New York CIO. This relationship would continue until 1948 when the GNYIUC opted to back Henry Wallace for president, instead of using fusion to back President Truman. This led to internal conflicts within the CIO and ultimately contributed to the decision by the National CIO to revoke the charter of the GNYIUC, thereby ending its relationship with the ALP.[15]

Today, in order to obtain or maintain automatic ballot access, a party's candidate for governor of New York in midterm years or President of the United States in presidential years must receive either 130,000 votes or 2% of votes cast (whichever is greater) on that party's line. The party need not run its own candidate and may cross-nominate another party's candidate, but in order to qualify for automatic ballot access it must receive the sufficient votes on its own line. Gubernatorial vote also determines ballot order, with Row "A" going to the party whose line gains the most votes (regardless of whether or not their candidate actually wins – see the 1994 election for an example). Before 2020, parties only needed to receive 50,000 votes for governor to be qualified for automatic ballot access

Automatic ballot access means that no petitions need be filed to gain access to a ballot line for statewide and special elections, and parties may designate candidates through their own conventions. (Legislative candidates must petition onto the ballot regardless of party designation.) For local (non-statewide) office, the number of signatures required to place a candidate on the ballot is much lower for qualified parties, and they are the only parties eligible to hold primary elections. Automatic ballot access is valid for two years, and parties must gain 130,000 votes or 2% of the vote in the next gubernatorial or presidential election to again qualify for automatic ballot access.

Small parties are significant in large part for their fused ballot lines, include the Independence Party of New York, the Working Families Party, and the Conservative Party of New York State. The Independence Party ran its own candidate for governor until 2002, but since then has instead retained its automatic ballot status by running a gubernatorial candidate who was designated by one of the major parties (to date, the party has always cross-endorsed the Democrat in gubernatorial races; it cross-endorses Republicans in lower races, particularly in the New York State Senate, whose Republican conference has strong ties to the party). Previously influential were the Liberal Party of New York and the New York State Right to Life Party, which lost automatic ballot access in 2002.

Other parties, such as the Libertarian Party of New York, the Green Party of New York, and others, now seek ballot access by, first, getting a gubernatorial candidate on the ballot via petition (by collecting 45,000 valid signatures of registered voters), and then by getting 130,000 votes for that candidate on their line. As a general rule, neither party uses electoral fusion, and both rely on their own candidates. The Green Party, which had first achieved ballot status in 1998, failed to gain 50,000 votes (then the requirement) and also lost its ballot status in 2002, but regained its line when the 2010 election results were certified. In 2018, Larry Sharpe, the Libertarian Party candidate for governor, received over 90,000 votes, giving the party ballot status for the first time in its history.[16]

The Liberal Party, which had been active since 1944, became defunct as a result of the 2002 gubernatorial election. Andrew Cuomo got the Liberal Party nomination and ran in the Democratic primary against Carl McCall, who had secured the Working Families nomination. Cuomo subsequently dropped out and endorsed McCall, but his name remained on the Liberal party line and failed to gain 50,000 votes, leading to the Liberal Party's failure to retain status and losing its automatic ballot line. A Federal lawsuit (joined by Green, Libertarian, and other parties) enjoined the Board of Elections from discarding enrollment records of these disqualified parties, and also required modifications to allow voters to register themselves in non-ballot parties.

In July 2019, the New York Legislature passed a budget bill that included the creation of a Public Campaign Financing Commission, which was given authority to investigate and create rules for public financing of campaigns.[17] The Conservative Party of New York and the Working Families Party each filed lawsuits against the state in response, alleging that the commission was a disguised attempt to end fusion voting and thus the existence of New York's third parties.[18]


Prior to 1958, Oregon practiced a form of fusion that required the state to list multiple nominating parties on the candidate's ballot line. Sylvester Pennoyer was elected governor in 1886 and 1890 as a candidate of the Democratic and People's Parties. In 1906, seven members of the Oregon House were also elected as candidates of the People's Party and either the Democratic or Republican parties. In 2008, a lawsuit was brought by the Independent Party of Oregon against the Oregon Secretary of State claiming that modifications to the ballot design statute in 1995 once again required the state to list multiple nominating parties on the candidate's ballot line. The lawsuit gave rise to legislation[19] to allow candidates to list up to three party labels after their name. This bill passed both houses of the Oregon legislature during the 2009 legislative session. Governor Ted Kulongoski signed the bill into law on July 23, 2009.

See also[edit]


  • "Political Combinations in Elections". Harvard Law Review. The Harvard Law Review Association. 45 (5): 906–912. March 1932. doi:10.2307/1332029. ISSN 0017-811X. JSTOR 1332029.


  1. ^ "What is Fusion" (PDF). Oregon Working Families Party. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-04-15.
  2. ^ "Brief for appellant: Twin Cities Area New Party vs Secretary of State of Minnesota". Public Citizen Foundation.
  3. ^ "Financial Disclosure Guide for Candidates and Senate Groups 2016 Federal Election" (PDF). Australian Electoral Commission. Retrieved 15 August 2020.
  4. ^ "Election Funding and Disclosure Report Federal Election 2016" (PDF). Australian Electoral Commission.
  5. ^ EIMER, S (2007). "The CIO and third party politics in New York: The rise and fall of the CIO–ALP". Political Power and Social Theory. 18: 133–171. doi:10.1016/s0198-8719(06)18004-7. ISSN 0198-8719.
  6. ^ Argersinger, Peter H. (April 1980). ""A Place on the Ballot": Fusion Politics and Antifusion Laws". The American Historical Review. 85 (2): 287–306. doi:10.2307/1860557. ISSN 0002-8762. JSTOR 1860557.
  7. ^ Sifry, Micah L. (2003). Spoiling for a Fight: Third-Party Politics in America. Routledge. pp. 227–228. ISBN 978-0415931434.
  8. ^ Hale, William Harlan (1950). Horace Greeley: Voice of the People. Harper & Brothers. OCLC 336934. p. 338
  9. ^ "African". History.missouristate.edu. Archived from the original on March 7, 2010. Retrieved July 2, 2010.
  10. ^ "Senate and House Secured; Republican control in the next Conress assured. The House of Representatives Repub- lican by More than Two -- thirds Ma- jority -- Possible Loss of a Repub- lican Senator from the State of Washington -- Republicans and Pop- ulists Will Organize the Senate and Divide the Patronage". The New York Times. November 9, 1894. Retrieved May 26, 2010.
  11. ^ "Timmons v. Twin Cities Area New Party (95-1608), 520 U.S. 351 (1997)". Legal Information Institute/Cornell. Retrieved January 4, 2015.
  12. ^ Richard Winger, American Independent Party Formally Nominates Donald Trump and Michael Pence, Ballot Access News (August 13, 2016)
  13. ^ John Myers, Donald Trump will be the nominee of two parties on California's November ballot, Los Angeles Times (August 15, 2016).
  14. ^ "Fusion In Many Districts; Old Parties Unite On Legislative Candidates" Milwaukee Journal November 1, 1918; p. 9, col. 2
  15. ^ EIMER, S (2007). "The CIO and third party politics in New York: The rise and fall of the CIO–ALP". Political Power and Social Theory. 18: 133–171. doi:10.1016/s0198-8719(06)18004-7. ISSN 0198-8719.
  16. ^ "NYS Board of Elections Unofficial Election Night Results". Archived from the original on 2018-11-20. Retrieved 2019-01-23.
  17. ^ "Governor Cuomo & Legislative Leaders Announce Members of the Public Campaign Financing Commission". Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. July 3, 2019. Archived from the original on August 2, 2019. Retrieved August 2, 2019.
  18. ^ McKinley, Jesse (July 23, 2019). "2 Opposing Political Parties, Fighting for Survival, Sue Cuomo". The New York Times.
  19. ^ http://www.leg.state.or.us/09reg/measures/sb300.dir/sb326.a.html[permanent dead link]

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