12/02/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How to Make Your Voice Heard as a New York Voter

The trouble with deep red or deep blue states, as any voter in such a state can tell you, is that they are largely ignored by the presidential election. With your electoral votes basically a foregone conclusion, the red or blue state voter feels as if their presidential vote doesn't really matter. But in the blue state of New York this year, voters have a chance to use that presidential vote for something huge.

Because New York is one of a handful of fusion-voting states, New York voters can vote for Barack Obama on the Working Families Party line -- sending a specific and powerful progressive message to every single elected officeholder in that state. In my book, The Uprising, I described how fusion lets voters vote for say, Barack Obama, on either the Democratic Party line or the Working Families Party line - and then have all of those votes "fused" together for Obama. Here's a graphic that shows how it looks on the ballot:

The power of this system is in the message it can deliver. Because the Working Families Party is a grassroots party organized around a very specific economically progressive agenda, the more votes Democratic candidates receive on that party line, the more every elected officeholder knows that New York voters aren't just supporting Democratic politicians, but want those Democratic politicians to champion that economically progressive agenda in office.

That kind of thing creates real leverage. If a state legislator or a congressperson knows they received, say, 20 percent of their total vote on the Working Families Party ballot line (Row E), they will be more inclined to vote for progressive economic legislation than had they received, say, 10 percent. Put another way, the fusion system allows voters to both avoid the Nader-style spoiler choice, while also making a strong policy statement right on the ballot.

As the New York Times reported this week, the Working Families Party has been integral to Democrats' epic attempt this year to take back New York's state senate. It has also provided the margin of victory for various congressional Democrats from tightly contested swing districts in New York. And the great thing is that if Democrats win that battle for the state senate, the Working Families Party's increasing strength over the years means progressives will have a major seat at the table to make legislative demands in that newly Democratic legislature.

This is where New York voters come in. Many expect a big upswing in voter turnout this year, and specifically progressive voter turnout, thanks to Obama's candidacy. If that upswing is expressed for Obama and other down-ballot Democratic candidates on the Working Families Party line, it will boost a major instrument of power for the progressive movement in one of the largest states in America.

So if you live in New York state, go to and sign up to pledge to vote for Barack Obama on the Working Families Party's Row E on the ballot. Then tell all your friends and neighbors to do the same. You may be living in a blue state that has been ignored by the presidential candidates, but you have the privilege of living in a rare fusion-voting state that lets you make progressive policy demands through your vote. It's time to use that privilege.

P.S. I'll write more after the election on the ongoing efforts to re-legalize fusion in every state in America. This system used to be legal everywhere, but Republicans used their power in state legislatures to outlaw it in as many states as possible, because it was allowing progressives to wield too much power.