Abolish The Line
What is The Line?
The design of primary election ballots can have substantial consequences, as these elections determine which candidates advance to the general election. New Jersey’s primary ballot design is different from those in all fifty states, including the District of Columbia. In all other states and D.C., candidates are organized on primary ballots based on the office seat they are seeking. Each candidate is listed directly beneath or next to each position title. These ballot designs make it easy for voters to identify which candidates are running for which electoral office.
The political machine in New Jersey decided, however, that our primary ballots should look completely different. In nineteen of New Jersey’s twenty-one counties, primary ballots used by the majority of voters are organized around a slate of candidates who are endorsed by the Democratic Party establishment after showing that they will do the bidding of the political elite, no questions asked. These slates of candidates are known as the “county line” or the “party line,” in reference to the fact that the endorsements are determined at the county party level and the endorsed candidates are presented on the ballot as a vertical or horizontal line of names. Candidates not on the line are placed in other columns or rows—often in a far off place on the ballot known as “ballot Siberia”–from the county line candidates.
Who Benefits From The Line?
A primary ballot design such as New Jersey’s results in gross confusion among voters. Voters tend to not realize that some positions are contested or falsely believe that they can vote for more than one candidate for a particular position. Our state’s primary ballot design also encourages voters to pick the candidates on the party line because its placement is easy to find and visually consistent. The party line is further advantaged by the placement of better-known candidates, such as those running for President, U.S. Senator, or Governor, at the top of the column while all other party candidates—regardless of legitimate qualifications—fall directly under them. The only way that non-party endorsed candidates can compete with the beneficial visuals on the party line is if they assemble a full slate of candidates and create their own line. This becomes very challenging for everyday people who are not politically connected to run for even the lowest of office positions.
The party line is also uniquely advantageous for candidates whose names may be less familiar to voters, such as those running for the state legislature, county-level, or local positions. A recent analysis by the Communications Workers of America found that no state legislative incumbent on the line had lost a primary election in New Jersey for nine years straight between 2009 and 2018. In comparison, in New York State twenty-two state legislative incumbents lost primary elections over the same time period. A ballot design should not be this advantageous, especially not as a reward for political loyalty. That is not democracy.
How Can We Abolish The Line?
There are two ways that the line could be cast of into antiquity along with Tammany Hall style politics:
- The New Jersey legislature could pass a bill mandating that New Jersey’s ballot be structured like those in literally every other state in the country; or
- Progressives can take proactive action by funding a lawsuit in the hopes that the courts will declare the line ballot structure as unconstitutional.
Although the New Jersey legislature could ensure that every day New Jerseyans and NOT party bosses or political insiders determine who wins primary elections by passing legislation that requires New Jersey primary ballots to be structured like those in other states, the likelihood of them legislating against their own interests is slim to none. Even if a lone performative progressive legislator came forward and introduced a bill, it would never make its way out from under the gold dome.
This is why we need your help. Currently, progressives are suing New Jersey’s 21 Counties because it’s time that the federal courts declare New Jersey’s corrupt ballot structure as unconstitutional. Please donate to our Legal Defense Fund today so that the people of New Jersey can decide the fate of our great state and NOT political elites.