Fusion in the political sense of the word is a controversial reform, even among independents. I probably should have saved it for Lesson 20 or so, but it fits in nicely with our recent ballot discussions, so there you go. Lesson 5 it is.
Here's the deal: Fusion allows a candidate to run as a member of two or more "parties," including as an independent. Partisans on the losing end of the deal hate fusion. Some independents don't like it either, because the fusion candidate is often associated with one of the two big, bad parties and because it gives voters fewer choices.
Case in point: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who ran, and won, as a Republican and as a candidate with the Independence Party of New York City in his 2002 election and 2006 re-election. His name appeared in the Republican column and the IPNYC column, and in 2002, the number of votes he received in the IPNYC column gave him the win. Had he run only as a Republican, he would have lost, assuming that the IPNYC votes would have gone to a different candidate chosen by the Independence Party. That "different candidate" would have at least given the voters an additional choice, some independents say.
But fusion has several advantages, not the least of which is its face-saving and conscience-saving value. In Bloomberg's case, independents, IPNYC and other third-party members, uncommitteds, and even a Democrat or two were able to vote for him without embarrassment or guilt; by voting for him as the IPNYC candidate, they could neatly circumvent the horror of voting for a Republican.
A second advantage is this, and again I use the Bloomberg campaign as an example: The Independent Party of New York City did not automatically embrace Bloomberg as its candidate of choice. The IPNYC held the cards; Bloomberg had to listen to independents' concerns, address those concerns, and pledge to make them a priority should he be elected. Only when he did so, to their satisfaction, was he named their candidate.
Partisans hate fusion, and you can see why. Running against the opposing major party's candidate is bad enough, but when that candidate has the official approval of independents and third parties, he or she becomes a much more formidable opponent. Not surprisingly, partisans are at the forefront of efforts to ban fusion in states where the practice is legal and to defeat pro-fusion initiatives in other states.
There you have it. Political fusion. Definitely not sexy, but it can liven up an otherwise ho-hum race.