When Connecticut voters head to the polls this Tuesday, they will see the names of both U.S. Senate candidates on their ballots — twice.
Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon will appear on the Republican Party and the Independent Party lines, while Democratic Rep. Chris Murphy will appear on the Democratic Party and the Working Families Party lines. Putting candidate names on the ballot twice, a method referred to as “fusion voting,” can make third parties something “other than spoilers,” said political science professor Susan Stokes, adding that it “breaks the duopoly.” In a race as close as Murphy and McMahon’s, fusion voting can make a difference, said Ebong Udoma, Connecticut state capitol reporter for WSHU Public Radio.
Connecticut is home to approximately 1 million registered voters who identify as Independent, while 800,000 identify as Democratic voters and 425,000 identify as Republican, meaning Independents have a sway in elections, Udoma said. Lindsay Farrell, Connecticut executive director of the Working Families Party, said his party typically garners 5 to 6 percent of the vote in legislative elections. Nancy DiNorda, chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Connecticut, said some voters “feel loyal” to the Working Families Party and would not vote on a straight party ticket. The same is true for Independent Party voters supporting McMahon, she added.
For a candidate to secure his or her name on the Independent Party line, he or she must receive 7,500 petition signatures and then pay $20,000 for the spot, Udoma said. This election marks the first time in Connecticut history that a Republican candidate will have his or her name on the Independent Party line, which “caused a rift in the Independent Party,” he added. The Connecticut Independent Party could not be reached for comment, and McMahon’s headquarters did not return the News’ calls.
By comparison, the Democratic Party and Working Families Party pairing seems more expected, Udoma said. The Working Families Party and the Democrats support a “tax system that makes sense — not putting the burden on the back of middle- and working-class voters to give big tax breaks to corporations, and universal health care,” Farrell said.
Connecticut’s fusion voting method is not a new feature of Connecticut politics. Current Gov. Dannel Malloy ran on a fusion ballot in 2010 with his name under both the Democratic Party and Working Families Party. Fusion voting in the United States first began at the beginning of the 20th century with the Populist Party in New York, Udoma said. Only eight states currently utilize fusion voting systems similar to Connecticut’s.
According to 2011 U.S. census data, slightly under one-third of Connecticut residents are registered to vote.