• Description

The run-up to the 2024 presidential election is highlighting the deep dissatisfaction throughout the electorate with our two-party system, as well as the difficulty in sustaining a broad electoral coalition to defeat anti-democratic extremism. Voters are expressing an overwhelming dislike of both major parties and growing interest in more electoral choices. Yet under our existing electoral rules, the odds of an independent or minor party candidate winning the presidency are extremely low. A common concern raised is that candidacies by the progressives Cornel West and Jill Stein and centrist political organization No Labels would splinter the pro-democracy vote in 2024, giving an electoral advantage to an authoritarian candidate like Donald Trump. Another worry is the risk of a constitutional crisis if an upstart campaign pulls off an upset in one or two states and prevents any candidate from securing a majority in the Electoral College, thereby leaving the selection of the president and vice president to Congress.

Our success in defending U.S. democracy will turn, in part, on our ability to make our political system more responsive to and representative of our diverse electorate and to facilitate cross-ideological majority electoral coalitions in defense of democracy and the rule of law. An electoral practice that once allowed minor parties throughout the country to exert real influence in politics — fusion voting — could help advance these goals. By empowering factions with differing views on policy but a shared commitment to liberal democracy to unify in support of a single candidate, fusion can serve as a key tool for defeating authoritarian threats at the ballot box. The following sections define fusion voting, describe its practical effects, and briefly summarize its long history in U.S. elections. We conclude by discussing the particular value of fusion voting in modern presidential elections, especially for voters in the political center concerned about extremism and hyper-partisanship.