Electoral fusion is an arrangement where two or more political parties on a ballot list the same candidate, pooling the votes for that candidate. 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 survives to this day within the Labour Party which fields Co-operative Party candidates in general elections in various areas.
Electoral fusion was once widespread in the United States. In the late 19th century, however, as minor political parties such as the People's 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." (Spoiling for a Fight, 227-228). The creation 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, notably New Hampshire, fusion is legal when primary elections are won by write-in candidates.
The cause of electoral fusion suffered a major setback in 1997, when the U.S. Supreme Court decided by 6-3 in Timmons v. Twin Cities Area New Party that fusion is not a constitutionally protected civil right.
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 used fusion to elect four members of the New Hampshire state legislature during the early 1990s.
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