Home>Campaigns>N.J. supports return to fusion voting, FDU poll says

Rep. Tom Malinowski at the Groundbreaking for the New Portal North Bridge, August 1, 2022. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

N.J. supports return to fusion voting, FDU poll says

Still no clarity on how minor political parties are formed

By David Wildstein, February 16 2023 1:38 pm

A majority of New Jerseyans, 56%-32%, support fusion voting that would permit multiple parties to nominate the same candidate in general elections, according to a new Fairleigh Dickinson Poll released today.

“Primary elections have very low turnout,” said Dan Cassino, a professor of Government and Politics at FDU, and the director of the poll. “If only the people on the extreme vote in the primaries, you’re going to get more extreme candidates that don’t necessarily represent what mainstream voters want.”

Fusion voting is legal in eight states, but New Jersey banned the practice around 1920 when Democratic and Republican party leaders sought to limit the influence of independent candidates.

Last year, a group calling itself the Moderate Party filed petitions seeking to put then-Rep. Tom Malinowski, a Democrat, on the ballot as their candidate for Congress in New Jersey’s 7th district.  The move aimed to allow Malinowski’s name to appear twice on the general election ballot, giving moderate Republicans – the kind who used to vote for candidates like Christine Todd Whitman and Thomas H. Kean, Sr. – the chance to vote for him without having to do so in the Democratic column.

But New Jersey Secretary of State Tahesha Way, also a Democrat, rejected the petitions twice, citing a state law that prohibited one candidate from appearing on the ballot more than once.  A lawsuit seeking to overturn the 100-year-old law is now pending in the state appellate court.

“The argument against fusion ticket laws has always been about maintaining stability,” said Cassino. “But when both sides are unhappy with the way their parties are going, that stops being a compelling case.”

Support for fusion voting comes from both parties, the poll shows.   Democrats back the idea by a 61%-29% margin, while independents favor it by a 62%-23% margin.  Republicans approve it, 55%-33%.  Men want fusion voting more than women: 62%-28% compared to 51%-35%.

It still needs to be clarified how political parties in New Jersey would be certified even if the court agreed that the ban is unconstitutional.

State law grants major party status to any party that receives at least 10% of all votes cast statewide for candidates for State Assembly in the most recent election.

More confusing is how the state officially certifies – doesn’t recognize – minor political parties.

The Libertarian and Reform parties sued the state in 1999 in a bid to allow voters to register as members of minor parties in a bid to declare political parties unconstitutional.

In 2001, a state appellate court upheld the constitutionality of major parties but ordered election officials to allow voters to register as members of seven minor parties that existed at the time: Conservative, Green, Libertarian, Natural Law, Reform, Socialist, and U.S. Constitution.    As of last month, 81,218 New Jersey voters chose to register as a minor party members.

The legislature never addressed minor party registration, leaving the 2001 appellate court decision frozen in time.  New Jersey has no legal mechanism to create a new political party, which means the Moderate Party is really just a group.

Also, there is no way for election officials to stop voters from joining parties that no longer exist.

The Natural Law Party and the Reform Party, which was formed to support Ross Perot’s 1992 and 1996 presidential campaigns, have been defunct since 2004, but New Jersey continues to allow voters to join those parties because the state doesn’t seem to know how to legally remove them.

The FDU poll was conducted between February 1 and February 6 with a sample size of 808 adult New Jersey residents and a margin of error of +/- 3.5%.

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