Last year Brad Smith provided this blog with a post that gives an overview of fusion voting laws in New York State. In this post I would like to look into a case study that, for some, sheds some doubt on the desirability of fusion voting laws. The Independence Party of the State of New York (IPNY) is a minor party that states on its website, “candidates and elected officials should be free to tell the voters what their views are, without dictates from political party bosses, special interest groups and restrictive party platforms.” With this in mind, in most elections the IPNY has preferred to endorse major party candidates under the fusion voting system, rather than nominate their own (they last endorsed Andrew Cuomo for governor, for instance).
Because of fusion voting laws, the IPNY appears on the ballot year-in year-out, despite this general (though not absolute) refusal to nominate separate candidates. This is coupled with a lack of discernable political position, which sharply contrasts to many of New York’s other minor parties that owe their existence to the fusion system, such as the Conservative Party (on the right) and the Working Families Party (on the left). One New York Times columnist called the IPNY, “a bizarre amalgam of right-wing populists married to black leftists and once led by Fred Newman, a Marxist therapist…” In the party’s defense, its website does include a few statements on policy positions, such as an opposition to Common Core and a support for the Dream Act.
Due to the IPNY’s name and non-ideological stance, some confusion may arise. In 2014, the Daily News found that out of 200 Independence Party members, 169 thought that they were registered as (small-i) “independents,” as in members of no party, rather than members of an actual party called the “Independence Party.” As of 2012, the state’s Board of Elections numbered the party’s official membership at 474,011 voters. If the Daily News’ survey is accurate (and of course it may not be) then as many as 400,000 New York are accidental members of the IPNY. Iin response to this criticism, the IPNY has called for New York to revise their voter registration forms to make them less confusing.