Sen. President Donald Williams and 23 other Democratic Senators were cross-endorsed in the 2012 election by both the Democratic party and a third party, but Williams proposed getting rid of the cross-endorsement system Monday because he says it causes confusion for voters.
He told the General Administration and Elections Committee that 44 states have no ability to cross endorse a candidate. He said it’s confusing for voters to have the same candidate appear on two lines on the ballot and could cause problems such as overvoting.
Williams and other Democrats like Gov. Dannel P. Malloy have been cross endorsed mostly by the Working Families Party, a third party with a record of supporting candidates who, according to its web site, “will stand up for our values, like creating good jobs, making healthcare more affordable, and fair taxes on the middle class.” The WFP has candidates who have been elected at the local level but mostly focuses on cross endorsements at the state level where it has become the margin of victory for several individuals, including Malloy.
Williams said he’s not looking to get rid of third parties, but he doesn’t believe they should be allowed to cross endorse a candidate.
“Sham parties I believe lead to gaming of the ballot and voter confusion,” Williams said.
Rep. Matthew Lesser, D-Middletown, said the Secretary of the State already has a calculation for overvoting. Williams said that’s true, but creating a system that avoids overvoting in the first place would be a better public policy, which is why he proposed the legislation.
While testifying before the committee, Tom Foley, the 2010 Republican gubernatorial candidate who lost to Malloy by a narrow margin, said he would have won if not for cross-endorsements.
“If Gov. Malloy was not allowed to be listed by the Working Families Party, I would have won the election. If the votes were to stay the same otherwise,” he said.
Foley said he hadn’t read the bill but called the idea “a mistake.” He said if it impacted third parties that had already been in existence before the Citizens United ruling, it was “a grab for Democrats” who were responding to a trend by the Independent Party of cross endorsing Republican candidates.
“I think the Independent Party has a new rule and they will automatically endorse the Republican candidate and I suspect that’s what this is all about,” he said.
Miles Rapoport, president of Demos and a former Secretary of the State, also opposed the bill. Rapoport said he did not think there should be a party called the Independent Party since it could confuse voters. Still he said the legislature shouldn’t move to eliminate it at the present time. He also acknowledged a recent shift in the party.
“It does feel like something happened during the 2010 and 2012 elections,” he said.
But no matter what happened, Rapoport believes minor parties create a richer democracy and allow candidates to give more information about themselves to the voters. The cross-endorsement also gives voters who don’t belong to one of the two major parties an opportunity to vote for a candidate, he said.
Sal Luciano, executive director of AFSCME and co-chair of the Working Families Party in Connecticut, opposed the bill for similar reasons.
“Without a cross endorsement, the Working Families would frequently face the dilemma of running our own candidate and indirectly contributing to the election of a candidate who is farthest from our views, or remaining out of the race and being unable to promote our agenda,” Luciano said in his written testimony. “Either way it is an unacceptable exclusion of our values from the political process.”
Michael Telesca, who represents one faction of the Independent Party, also opposed the legislation. He told the committee that it should focus on the laws governing third parties and make them more concise instead of limiting ballot access for third parties by eliminating cross endorsements.