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Has the Prohibition of Fusion Really Hurt Third-Parties?
Unformatted Document Text:  reason for major parties to co-nominate their candidates with minor parties. Currently, of the seven states that allow fusion, fusion candidates have run consistently in House races in only New York and South Carolina over the past few elections. There is no reason to believe that dropping the legal prohibition will have any impact on actual political action in other states. Unlike ballot access laws, which impact third-parties directly, fusion requires the cooperation of the major parties that third-parties compete again. Similarly, the evidence indicates that the prohibition of fusion is unlikely to have been a primary reason for third-party decline over the twentieth century. While fusion has seemed to help third-party candidates, and the use of fusion has declined over the century, fusion was never a primary strategy of third-parties, with the possible exception of the Populists in 1896. Instead, during most elections and certainly during the period that some considered the prime period of fusion for minor parties, the vast majority of third-party candidates ran under a single party label. The rapid rise and decline of these parties around 1912, for example, was probably unrelated to fusion and had more to do with the strength of the lone Progressive and Socialist tickets. This study, though, is preliminary, largely due to our limited data on when fusion was banned, and sometimes made legal again, by state legislatures. The data we have gathered thus far on fusion laws includes only the period from when states first began enacting the Australian ballot until 1910 and the most recent decade. Further research in this area will need to focus first and foremost on gathering complete information through each state’s session laws of when fusion laws were passed or overturned. 19

Authors: Tamas, Bernard.
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reason for major parties to co-nominate their candidates with minor parties. Currently, of the
seven states that allow fusion, fusion candidates have run consistently in House races in only
New York and South Carolina over the past few elections. There is no reason to believe that
dropping the legal prohibition will have any impact on actual political action in other states.
Unlike ballot access laws, which impact third-parties directly, fusion requires the cooperation of
the major parties that third-parties compete again.
Similarly, the evidence indicates that the prohibition of fusion is unlikely to have been a
primary reason for third-party decline over the twentieth century. While fusion has seemed to
help third-party candidates, and the use of fusion has declined over the century, fusion was never
a primary strategy of third-parties, with the possible exception of the Populists in 1896. Instead,
during most elections and certainly during the period that some considered the prime period of
fusion for minor parties, the vast majority of third-party candidates ran under a single party label.
The rapid rise and decline of these parties around 1912, for example, was probably unrelated to
fusion and had more to do with the strength of the lone Progressive and Socialist tickets.
This study, though, is preliminary, largely due to our limited data on when fusion was
banned, and sometimes made legal again, by state legislatures. The data we have gathered thus
far on fusion laws includes only the period from when states first began enacting the Australian
ballot until 1910 and the most recent decade. Further research in this area will need to focus first
and foremost on gathering complete information through each state’s session laws of when
fusion laws were passed or overturned.
19


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