Fu­sion vot­ing and mi­nor par­ties raise par­tic­i­pa­tion

The Buffalo News - - OPINION - By Ralph C. Lorigo Ralph C. Lorigo is chair­man of the Erie County Con­ser­va­tive Party.

A re­cent ar­ti­cle in An­other Voice ar­gued that fu­sion vot­ing needs to end in New York be­cause it dis­cour­ages vot­ers from vot­ing in New York elec­tions, cre­ates con­fu­sion and makes it dif­fi­cult for the elec­tion com­mis­sion­ers to print bal­lots. Noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth.

Fu­sion vot­ing is sim­ply the right of each or­ga­nized po­lit­i­cal party to en­dorse the can­di­date of their choice. This is guar­an­teed by the Con­sti­tu­tion of the State of New York as stated in a New York Court of Ap­peals case, Hop­per, et al. v. Britt, et al., Oct. 10, 1911.

To­day, to be­come a sus­tain­ing po­lit­i­cal party, the party must re­ceive no fewer than 50,000 votes ev­ery four years on its line for the gu­ber­na­to­rial elec­tion. Once this is ac­com­plished, the party con­tin­ues in ex­is­tence to the next gu­ber­na­to­rial elec­tion.

The Con­ser­va­tive Party has been in ex­is­tence in the state since 1962. At the other end of the spec­trum is the Work­ing Fam­i­lies Party, and in be­tween there are a num­ber of other par­ties that have re­ceived the nec­es­sary 50,000 votes.

The ex­is­tence of these mi­nor par­ties ac­tu­ally en­cour­ages vot­ing be­cause peo­ple are more mo­ti­vated to vote for the is­sues they be­lieve in.

Many peo­ple are un­clear about the plat­form of the Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can par­ties. They want to know they are vot­ing for a can­di­date who be­lieves in their is­sues. Mi­nor par­ties are clear on their is­sues. In fact, the New York State Con­ser­va­tive Party puts forth a plat­form each and ev­ery year that spec­i­fies their leg­isla­tive pri­or­i­ties. The Work­ing Fam­i­lies Party also puts out a plat­form on its web­site.

Nu­mer­ous polls and sur­veys have shown that mi­nor par­ties in New York strongly in­flu­ence voter turnout, im­prove com­pe­ti­tion, bring new ideas and mo­bi­lize vot­ers who be­lieve their voice will be heard. Erie County clearly has a strong con­ser­va­tive base of vot­ers. This is a hard-work­ing, eth­nic com­mu­nity that holds onto its tra­di­tional con­ser­va­tive val­ues. This is why more votes are re­ceived on the Con­ser­va­tive line in Erie County than any of the other 61 coun­ties in this state.

The au­thor of the prior ar­ti­cle, Jeremy Zell­ner, is both the Erie County Demo­cratic chair­man and the Demo­cratic elec­tions com­mis­sioner. In a county where Democrats out­num­ber Repub­li­cans 2 to 1, Zell­ner spear­headed Demo­cratic losses in the last four county-wide elec­tions. He wants to blame the losses on fu­sion vot­ing, rather than the real rea­son that peo­ple vote their val­ues and his cho­sen can­di­dates are too lib­eral.

The state con­sti­tu­tion and case law in New York have con­sis­tently ad­vo­cated for equal op­por­tu­nity to the bal­lot. It is the his­tor­i­cal rea­son why we have fu­sion vot­ing and why it works in New York.

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