New Jersey’s largest and most active Democratic club voted overwhelmingly in support of a resolution calling to abolish “the county line” on primary ballots.
The county line, which refers to New Jersey’s unique primary ballot design that gives preferential ballot placement to candidates endorsed by their county’s Democratic or Republican Party, allows party insiders — not voters — to choose primary election winners, according to information provided by Yael Niv, president of the nonpartisan Good Government Coalition of New Jersey, which is spearheading the Better Ballot NJ campaign to abolish the county line, according to a statement released on Jan. 25, a day after the vote.
Research by Rutgers Professor Julia Sass Rubin for New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP) found that in New Jersey’s 2020 primary elections, candidates whose names appeared on the county line received an average boost of 35% points, according to the statement.
“This vote – and the widespread support that the resolution has already garnered – is an important step towards a better democracy in New Jersey,” Niv said in the statement. “It is frankly shameful that New Jersey uses primary ballots that intentionally break rules of good ballot design in order to manipulate voters. No other state does this, and our citizens are saying loud and clear that it is time for fair elections in New Jersey.”
More than 90% of Princeton Community Democratic Organization (PCDO) members voted to support the resolution at their January monthly meeting, which took place virtually via Zoom on Jan. 24, according to the statement.
“I am delighted – but not surprised – that the PCDO overwhelmingly supported the Better Ballot resolution,” PCDO President Jo Butler said in the statement. “A ballot that is readable, easily understandable, and fair is fundamental to the success of our democracy. Elected officials need to be accountable to voters, not political power brokers.”
The resolution calls for primary election ballots of all kinds to be displayed in “office bloc” format, in which each elected office is shown clearly separated from other offices, with the candidates running for that office listed beneath it in an order that ensures each candidate has an equal chance of appearing in the first, second and any subsequent positions, according to the statement. Such a design ensures that no candidate is advantaged over other candidates simply on the basis of the ballot, according to the statement.
Since the campaign’s launch a little over a month ago, more than 30 organizations have signed on in support including the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, New Jersey Citizen Action, and New Jersey Policy Perspective, according to the statement.