How to Make Your Voice Heard In a Blue State

by: David Sirota

Sun Nov 02, 2008 at 08:00

The trouble with deep red or deep blue states, as any voter in such a state can tell you, is that they are largely ignored by the presidential election. With your electoral votes basically a foregone conclusion, the red or blue state voter feels as if their presidential vote doesn't really matter. But in the blue state of New York this year, voters have a chance to use that presidential vote for something huge.

Because New York is one of a handful of fusion-voting states, New York voters can vote for Barack Obama on the Working Families Party line - sending a specific and powerful progressive message to every single elected officeholder in that state. In my book, The Uprising, I described how fusion lets voters vote for say, Barack Obama, on either the Democratic Party line or the Working Families Party line - and then have all of those votes "fused" together for Obama. Here's a graphic that shows how it looks on the ballot:

The power of this system is in the message it can deliver.  

David Sirota :: How to Make Your Voice Heard In a Blue State
Because the Working Families Party is a grassroots party organized around a very specific economically progressive agenda, the more votes Democratic candidates receive on that party line, the more every elected officeholder knows that New York voters aren't just supporting Democratic politicians, but want those Democratic politicians to champion that economically progressive agenda in office.

That kind of thing creates real leverage. If a state legislator or a congressperson knows they received, say, 20 percent of their total vote on the Working Families Party ballot line (Row E), they will be more inclined to vote for progressive economic legislation than had they received, say, 10 percent. Put another way, the fusion system allows voters to both avoid the Nader-style spoiler choice, while also making a strong policy statement right on the ballot.

As the New York Times reported this week, the Working Families Party has been integral to Democrats' epic attempt this year to take back New York's state senate. It has also provided the margin of victory for various congressional Democrats from tightly contested swing districts in New York. And the great thing is that if Democrats win that battle for the state senate, the Working Families Party's increasing strength over the years means progressives will have a major seat at the table to make legislative demands in that newly Democratic legislature.

This is where New York voters come in. Many expect a big upswing in voter turnout this year, and specifically progressive voter turnout, thanks to Obama's candidacy. If that upswing is expressed for  Obama and other down-ballot Democratic candidates on the Working Families Party line, it will boost a major instrument of power for the progressive movement in one of the largest states in America.

So if you live in New York state, go to and sign up to pledge to vote for Barack Obama on the Working Families Party's Row E on the ballot. Then tell all your friends and neighbors to do the same. You may be living in a blue state that has been ignored by the presidential candidates, but you have the privilege of living in a rare fusion-voting state that lets you make progressive policy demands through your vote. It's time to use that privilege.

P.S. I'll write more after the election on the ongoing efforts to re-legalize fusion in every state in America. This system used to be legal everywhere, but Republicans used their power in state legislatures to outlaw it in as many states as possible, because it was allowing progressives to wield too much power.

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same electors? (0.00 / 0)
I have a question about this. Since you are actually voting for presidential electors not the candidate himself, are you still voting for the same electors if you vote for Obama on the Working Families Party line as you would if you vote for him on the Democratic Party? If not, this could be a very bad idea as it could split the vote and allow McCain to take the electors with a plurality.

Yes. (0.00 / 0)
In a fusion voting system, either a vote on the WFP or the Democratic line counts  as an elector for Barack Obama. On the WFP line, however, it means that you're sending a message that you really, really want progressive change.

This is a great system. (4.00 / 1)
I'm all for breaking the two-party duopoly, but not at the expense of electing Republicans instead of moderate or even conservative Democrats. This is the sort of legislation the Greens and Libertarians should be pushing. I also like instant run-off voting.  

Both are great (0.00 / 0)
Fusion can be abused, such as having only one candidate on both the republican and democratic tickets in down-ticket races (I don't vote for those candidates; they're machine hacks).

However, the WFP shows the power of the fusion system at its best: voting for the party instead of just the candidate; not unlike a parliamentary system (a comparison David Sirota aptly made in his book, The Uprising).  

[ Parent ]
Proving Their Leverage (4.00 / 1)
WFP proved their leverage multiple times.  In 2006, popular moderate Republican State Senator Nick Spano lost to Andrea Stewart Cousins in a 2004 rematch.  Spano won by 26 votes in 2004 ad held the Working Families line after supporting the minimum wage increase.  In 2006, Spano did not support the Fair Share Healthcare Bill and lost the line as a result.  New York politicians are learning that when they count on the support of Working Families, they have to be accountable to their progressive agenda.

Down side (0.00 / 0)
We had this in California way back when, but Republicans in California would run on both tickets, thus eliminating competition.  For example, Earl Warren ran for re-election as Governor in the 50's as both a Democrat and a Republican.

It actually substantially helped Republicans control California for quite a while.  Now, that can be overcome with a more knowledgeable primary electorate, but the risk still exists. The progressive community blog for California.

See my post above... (0.00 / 0)
We have many instances like that in New York State, like for district judgeships. For instance, one would see many candidates on both the Republican and the Democratic line.

However, the fact that a third-party progressive fusion party could come out of this would outweigh any disadvantages arising from "soviet ballots" as I like to call them.  

[ Parent ]

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