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Another Voice: Fusion voting, minority parties encourage participation

By Ralph C. Lorigo

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 hardworking, 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 two to one, Zellner spearheaded Democratic losses in the last four countywide 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.

Ralph C. Lorigo is chairman of the Erie County Conservative Party.

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