Public Comment

Let’s Democratize Our Democracy

Harry Brill
Saturday November 23, 2019 - 11:26:00 AM

Several issues ago in the Berkeley Daily Planet, an article on this nation’s political deficiencies astutely spelled out various structural factors that undermine our democracy. There is still another serious shortcoming that also deserves our attention. We should be concerned about the lack of electoral fusion in most states. Electoral fusion is when two or more political parties on a ballet support the same candidate. This pools the vote for that candidate, who could otherwise lose the election. Also, it enhances the influence of minor parties, who could support a candidate of another party if the candidate would be willing to accept some of the minor party’s platform.  

According to historians, electoral fusion was once widespread in the United States. But as minority parties, by using fusion, became increasingly successful, state legislatures enacted bans to prohibit fusion. They outlawed fusion in 18 states.  

Currently there are only eight states where fusion is legal. New York City is among those states. The Working Families Party, which is a small political party, has taken advantage of fusion by assuring the election of some progressive candidates. Although California is one of the eight states, it recognizes electoral fusion only in presidential elections.  

To improve the chances of enacting progressive legislation in California and elsewhere, a serious attempt should be made to restore electoral fusion. But it is very unlikely that state legislatures would support fusion. Instead, this issue would have to be placed on the ballot so that voters can decide. Although enacting fusion would be very difficult, it is winnable if most voters realize that it would enhance their political influence considerably. In other words, it would be a major victory for democracy.