As promised, my analysis of Massachusetts Ballot Question 2.
Question 2 is an interesting one. Basically, the proposal is that a single candidate should be able to run under multiple different parties, and that said candidate should appear on the ballot multiple times, once for each party they're running under. At first glance I really didn't know what to think about this. Clearly it's main effect will be on the party system, and it will definitely affect voters and candidates who don't fit into the two mainstream parties. The question is how.
As an avid supporter of 3rd party politics I definitely see some potential for good in the idea of 'fusion voting'. The Mass Ballot Freedom Campaign (who are the ones behind this Question) have a pretty good educational video (right) about it. The video actually really helped me clarify my thinking on the issue. I had not been aware that a system such as the one proposed is already successfully in effect in some states (including New York) or that it's been done before at various points in American history.
Unfortunately, I've been very hard pressed to find anyone speaking out against Question 2. The only argument against it that I've heard has been that it will confuse voters. A lot of people are responding to this with outrage, 'how dare they insult the intelligence of the voters like that!', but, to be honest, I think it's a somewhat valid point. We've seen in the recent past just what effect confusing ballots can have on an election, and it's not good. In this case, however, I don't think the confusion factor will be that big of a deal. Worst case scenario, a voter sees one name on the ballot several times, gets confused, and just votes for the party they want rather than the person they want. In general, I don't approve of party-line voting, but it certainly does serve the purpose of removing the need for people to actually think about politics.
As for the effect this will have on 3rd parties, I can see two possibilities. One, it could, as advertised, increase support for 3rd parties and help raise them into greater relevance. This seems to be what's happened with this system in New York and in other places historically. On the other hand, there's more to voting than the parties, and I think the individual candidates are far more important. In any given election, I don't care what party a candidate is running under, I'll vote for whichever candidate I think has the best policies, be they Republican, Democrat, Green, Libertarian, or Bull-Moose. I do think that this method of voting, by virtue of increasing awareness and support for 3rd parties, may actually hurt those 3rd parties. There is little doubt in my mind that a Democratic candidate that got the majority of their votes as a Democrat and then some others as a Green, though they will certainly spend some time and attention on Green issues, will still focus mainly on Democratic issues. It may end up being the case that policies such as this will result in fewer 3rd party candidates and therefore no real change in the system. Historical data, however, would suggest that this isn't too likely. And as this will provide more choice to the voters I think it's a good thing.
Question 2 gets a yes on my ballot.