‘Fusion Voting’ Seen as Way to Break Polarized Partisan Paralysis

FORKED RIVER, N.J.—Founders of New Jersey’s fledging Moderate Party vowed to file a lawsuit seeking to lift the state’s century-old ban on “fusion voting” after their petition to place a candidate already endorsed by one of the two major parties also under their banner on November’s ballot was rejected in early June.

That candidate, two-term Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), is being challenged by Republican Thomas Kean, Jr., in a rematch of their 2020 Congressional District 7 (CD 7) race decided by 5,329 votes, or less than 1 percent, in one of the nation’s most-watched elections.

In a July 6 New York Times guest essay titled “A Viable Third Party Is Coming, and It’s Starting With a New Jersey Lawsuit,” Malinowski wrote that there is momentum across the country for centrist alternatives that would “empower swing voters to save our democracy from toxic polarization” engendered by Democratic and Republican parties hijacked by extremists on the left and the right.

But five weeks after New Jersey Secretary of State Tahesha Way rejected the nascent Moderate Party’s petition to place Malinowski as its candidate on CD 7’s Nov. 8 ballot, that lawsuit has not materialized, and time is running out for legal action to produce a decision before vote-by-mail ballots must be dispatched on Sept. 24. 

The inaction has fostered ridicule from Republicans and the Kean campaign as a stunt designed to distract voters from the fact that Malinowski is a Democrat who supports Biden administration policies that they say have failed and are out-of-step with the district’s voters.

“Fusion voting” is not the same as voting for hopefuls placed on ballots as “third party” entries running against candidates sponsored by the two major parties. Under this system, multiple parties can nominate the same candidate, who can appear more than once on the ballot. 


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