Could New Jersey change controversial primary ballot?

Could New Jersey change controversial primary ballot?

MORRIS COUNTY, N.J. (PIX11)—A federal lawsuit could decide the structure of New Jersey’s primary ballot before June 4, the day of the primary.

State legislative leaders are also committing to making changes to part of the ballot that many say is flawed.

“Everybody seems to acknowledge that there’s a problem here,” said Micah Rasmussen, Rider University political professor and director of the Rebovich Institute of New Jersey Politics.

The “county line” is the preferential spot on New Jersey’s primary ballot that goes to the candidate of each race endorsed and supported by that County’s political party.

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On the other hand, candidates vying for the same office who the County party does not endorse are relegated to a place some political experts call “ballot Siberia,” which sometimes appears a few spaces away.

New Jersey is the only state with this, and it is used by all Counties except Salem and Sussex.

In some forms, other states’ primary ballots have all the candidates for each race appear in the same group together.

You may already know who you are voting for when you enter the voting booth, but that’s not necessarily the case with everybody. Political experts say that’s where “the line” can come into play.

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“Really, the complaint is, you’re not treating everybody on the ballot the same,” said Rasmussen.

A lawsuit contesting the “county line” was filed by Congressman Andy Kim, who is facing off against New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy in the U.S. Senate Democratic Primary. Rasmussen said it is possible the federal judge presiding over the case could decide the ballot’s future before Primary Day. What that change could look like, however, is unknown.

“That’s the issue that the court is grappling with,” said Rasmussen. “Now the Legislature is saying, ‘We know that there’s an issue, we ought to be the ones to deal with it.’ They’re saying, ‘Let us deal with it,’ but everybody seems to recognize that some change needs to happen here.’

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