Lest anyone think I’ve turned into a No Labeler, I want to clarify that the point of my new piece at Next City is not that partisanship or partisan elections are a problem, but that the national party labels – Democrat and Republican – don’t include any meaningful content about municipal-level policy issues, so we need different political parties.
Political party labels serve as a shorthand for “likely to support policies x, y, and z.” You don’t really have to know much about an individual politician’s policy views if the party label is doing its job. At the city level, it’s not. Knowing that somebody is a Democrat doesn’t tell you where they’ll come down on neighborhood growth, mixed-use development, parking, historical preservation, etc. We need new labels that do tell you that.
And to get them, we need to change PA state law to allow fusion voting:
There may be no getting around the need for brand new local political parties. That may sound like a daunting challenge for those familiar with efforts to form viable third parties and elect third-party candidates But there is a simple hack to Pennsylvania ballot access rules that could allow new Philadelphia parties to overcome both a lopsided Democratic affiliation and the“first-past-the-post” problem facing most minor party candidates.
That hack is called fusion voting. It allows two or more parties to list the same candidate on their ballot lines, and then pool the votes for that candidate. So rather than having to choose between a Democratic candidate and a Build Philadelphia Party candidate, a voter could cast her vote for a pro-growth Democrat on the BPP ballot line. All votes for that candidate from all the ballot lines would be tallied up, so there’d be no risk in voting for a minor party.
This system exists in New York, Connecticut, South Carolina, Vermont and Oregon. It used to exist in Pennsylvania.
In the lead up to the great Philadelphia municipal consolidation of 1854, a Consolidation Party was able to pressure major Democratic and Whig candidates to support putting Philadelphia County under a single municipal government. The Consolidation Party was just one of several local parties including the Paid Fire Department Party, the Prohibition Party and the Native American Party.
With fusion voting, some motivated Philadelphians could circulate petitions to put a Paid Sick Days Party (or a Mixed Use Party) on the ballot. Then the Democratic candidates would compete to secure those parties’ endorsements by adopting some of their issue preferences, and appear on their ballot lines in addition to the Democratic Party ballot lines.