Christopher Kempf ’13 successfully defended his senior thesis, “The Broken Promise of Electoral Fusion: Ballot Law, Elections and the Failure of Third Party Politics in Connecticut and the United States.” He was advised by Prof. Sam Best. Congratulations!
Electoral fusion, or the multiple-party nomination of a single candidate on the ballot, claims to offer an avenue for an enlarged role of minor parties in American politics and an enriched voting experience. Drawing on evidence of minor parties’ experience with electoral fusion in the state of Connecticut gathered from election results, interviews, news reports and the little scholarly analysis on the topic, I demonstrate that electoral fusion has harmed minor parties’ ability to contest elections, to operate independently from the major parties and to present a substantial alternative to voters. I suggest that the behavior encouraged by fusion for minor parties is akin to that of a pressure group rather than a political party. Finally, I turn to the example of the Populist Party to demonstrate that, even for the most effective and successful of third-party movements, the electoral fusion model is deeply flawed and does not threaten the two-party system’s grip on American electoral politics.