Pa. Supreme Court Considering Whether Law Barring Fusion Candidacies Violates the State Constitution

Missed this Francis Fox Piven/Miles Rapoport piece from last month:

If  the court should rule for the plaintiffs, it would make a stunning gift to American democracy at a time when such is truly needed. It would provide an easy exit from dysfunctional partisan polarization for those prepared to take it. It would both increase voter turnout, and ensure more precise information on real voter preferences. And it would show more respect for minority political views, and do so in a constructive way. It does all of this by returning to a system once legal in Pennsylvania that allows a way out of the Hobson’s choice that our single-member district, winner-take-all electoral system now forces on voters and minor parties they support: to “waste” their votes on candidates with no serious chance of winning, or to “spoil” elections by draining enough votes from their second choice to give victory to their opponents.

Working Families Party & Rabb v. Commonwealth concerns current Pennsylvania law on political party “fusion” or “cross-nomination”—the nomination of a candidate by more than one party, with votes cast on any nominating party’s ballot line combined in that candidate’s total against rivals. Such fusion once thrived in Pennsylvania, and all the rest of the United States. Particularly after the Civil War, it was used by major and minor parties, up and down the ballot, throughout the country. It helped underwrite a lively mass democratic politics that astonished observers, producing  voter turnout levels virtually unique in the world, and far greater than today’s.

Back in the 1990s, when the U.S. Supreme Court rejected such an argument under the U.S. Constitution in the Timmons case, I wrote: Entrenching the Duopoly: Why the Supreme Court Should Not Allow the States to Protect the Democrats and Republicans from Political Competition, 1997 SUPREME COURT REVIEW 331.

 

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