The S.C. House is expected to give final approval today to a ban on candidates representing more than one party on the election ballot. The measure will then go to a Senate committee for consideration. Candidates have occasionally sought the support of more than one party as a way of adding up votes over a single-party opponent.
The use of this fusion voting is also a way for minor political parties to get the attention and support of Democratic and Republican party movers and shakers — too often, they’re ignored because of their inability to bring a larger base to the polls.
Multi-party voting can also be helpful to voters. It’s hard to say what a candidates particular politics might be when only labeled a Democrat, but as the “Rock of Love” Party nominee, the voter would likely sense the candidates support for their most important issue: namely, fishnet stockings on stripper polls.
In 2006, James Island resident Eugene Platt lost his race against Republican Rep. Wallace Scarborough to represent Dist. 115 in the Statehouse by a scant 40 votes.
Platt’s name appeared twice on the ballot — representing Democrats and the smaller Working Families party — and the WF nomination got him 400 votes he may not have received if Platt had just ran as a Dem. It still wasn’t enough.
But things could have gone different if he had put his name on a third line — the Green Party. Platt says that 57 Dist. 115 residents voted a straight Green Party ticket and those votes would have put him over the edge.
Platt says that he’s surprised that several Democrats voted for the ban on fusion voting, considering it has benefited Dems in the past.
Working Families first came to South Carolina as an effort to pull in voters who would support traditionally Democratic principles like pro-labor and fair pay, but they voted Republican because of social issues like gun control and abortion, says Erin McKee, president of the Charleston Central Labor Council and a Working Families organizer in South Carolina.
“We have union member who vote against their best interest because of social issues,” she says. “Working Families sticks to pocket book issues.”
If the Senate approves the ban, it could be devastating for Working Families, McKee says. She hopes the measure will stall in the Senate.
Running under different parties doesn’t always work out well, though. In ’08, Platt decided he would try to clinch the endorsement of all three parties and pull out a win. He received the nominations of the Working Families and the Green parties early. But he lost the Democratic Primary, and things went downhill from there.
Working Families nominated three South Carolina candidates who were also appearing on the Democratic Primary ballot. When none of them won, the WF refused to place any of the candidates on the General Election ballot.
The Greens were ready to go ahead with Platt’s nomination, but he was kept off the November ballot because a candidate that loses in the primary isn’t allowed on the ballot in the general election. The law was likley created to prevent losing candidates from acting as spoilers to sabotage the party that scorned them. Platt argued that he locked in the Green Party endorsement prior to the Democratic Primary, therefore he wasn’t running out of a sense of retribution, but the court didn’t accept his argument.
It’s important to note that Platt’s one-time Democratic opponent, Rep. Anne Peterson Hutto, was one of only 17 House members who voted in support of a candidates right to represent more than one party. It remains to be seen what the Senate will do with the bill.