New Jerseyans may be familiar with the restrictive voting laws of red states. Policies like voter ID requirements, the elimination of polling places in particular communities, and deregistering voters all contribute to a lack of integrity in our democratic processes. However, some New Jersey voters may not know that despite its status as a blue state, New Jersey plays host to an undemocratic flaw to its elections, a flaw that favors primary candidates who cozy up to political party bosses.
The officials who design New Jersey’s primary ballots list the candidates in a gridlike fashion, with the most mainstream candidates bracketing together in one of the first columns. Rogue candidates, however, find themselves listed on the columns that voters remain least likely to even consider. This ballot structure allows machine candidates to coast to an easy primary win, while those not approved by the county party chair – or chairs, as is the case for candidates running in legislative electoral districts that encompass more than one county in part or whole – are almost certain to lose.
An effort is underway to abolish the so-called ballot line in New Jersey. Earlier this year, a coalition of progressive activists and former candidates filed a lawsuit to formally challenge the party line in court. Meanwhile, the Good Government Coalition of NJ, a nonpartisan group working to strengthen democracy, launched its Better Ballots NJ campaign to educate the public on the issue and advocate for fairer elections in New Jersey. The Great Bay Democratic Club, which represents Democrats in the greater Little Egg Harbor area, recently voted to endorse the GGCNJ Resolution to Establish a Fair Ballot.
For more information on the ballot line, please visit the sites below.