New York State has a crazy “fusion” voting system whereby you have something like 6 reasonably major parties (Dems, Reps, Independence Party, Conservative Party, Working Families Party, Green Party), with candidates having the ability to appear on multiple lines. Typically, a Republican appears on the Republican, Conservative, and Independence lines and a Democrat appears on the Democratic, WFP, and sometimes Green lines.
The various lines are listed across the ballot in an order determined by prior election results. Being listed first or second is a big deal. And if Paladino flames out hard enough, Republicans may lose their listing in the second column (the “B” column), since the Conservative party is running Lazio. A friend with close ties to the Conservative Party writes:
Position on the ballot is determined by how many votes the top line candidate receives in the previous election cycle. In off-year elections ballot position is determined by the gubernatorial race. NYS ballots are currently constituted as follows: Democrat, Republican, Independence, Conservative, WFP… With the GOP nominating Carl “Horse Cock” Paladino, there is a very real chance that Rick Lazio, running on the conservative line, might out poll him in November, leading to the Conservative party taking the “B” line for 2012, which is a nightmare for the GOP. Ballot position is key psychologically since voters are lazy and stupid and tend not to venture too far down the ballot when they vote.
But NYS also confers “major party” status to the top two vote receiving lines. This has profound implications since only major parties can have election commissioner and other important patronage appointments. For better or for worse, NYS runs through patronage, so any disruption in the way that structure is organized will have profound impact upon both the GOP and the Conservative Party. For one, the Conservative Party will likely have to fend off the GOP establishment from co-opting their party and maintaining their control over their share of the patronage and other benefits conferred to major parties. Although the Conservaties and Republicans often work together, Conservative (as one could assume) value their independace and won’t appreciate the GOP establishment, that they in fact seek to steer to the right be their very existance, weaseling in and trying to take over what they’ve worked hard to build up.
This is one of the many unique aspects of NYS’s fusion system, and yet another sign that the GOP is a rump party statewide.
Ben Smith covered NYS politics for years. I don’t know why this wasn’t his big take away from last night.
Update. I might add that neither my friend (also a Democrat) nor I regard this as good news. There is a lot of corruption in Albany due to the traditional joint operating agreement between the Senate and Assembly along with weak disclosure laws and minimal effective press oversight (the Time barely covers Albany and no one outside Albany reads the Albany Times-Union), but I think that one party rule could easily make it worse. Maybe the decline of the state Republican party (assuming it happens) will shake up the system and improve things, but it’s more likely that complete Democratic control will lead to even more corruption. Having a viable, moderate (if corrupt) Republican state party is probably a good thing for the state and that may be starting to go out the window.