Judge Strikes Down NJ's Party Line Ballot System

Andy Kim: 1. New Jersey's party line ballot system: 0

Andy Kim

Andy Kim

Photo Credit: Rep. Andy Kim

In a legal ruling that will set off an earthquake among New Jersey party bosses, a judge ruled against the state's controversial party line ballot system.

The system gives preferential treatment to candidates endorsed by the county party, issuing a preliminary injunction against the ballots for the upcoming June primary and ruling ballots must use office block ballots.

Judge Zahid Quraishi announced his ruling on Friday, March 29, siding with Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ), who had filed a federal lawsuit seeking to get the line thrown out. 

Kim has made his disdain for the line a centerpiece of his US Senate campaign as his opponent in the Democratic primary, Tammy Murphy, Gov. Phil Murphy's wife, quickly gobbled up endorsements from party bosses. Murphy dropped out last weekend after lagging behind Kim in the polls.

“Today’s decision is a victory for a fairer, more democratic politics in New Jersey," Kim said. “While fixing this unfair ballot system is a massive step forward towards perfecting our democracy, there is still work to be done.”

The party line ballot layout is controversial because candidates endorsed by party bosses are grouped together in a favorable position on primary ballots, giving them a leg up on their opposition in 19 out of 21 New Jersey counties.

In his 49-page ruling granting Kim the injunction, Quraishi largely rejected arguments from the bosses, agreeing with Kim and others, saying the line balloting system would cause them "“real or immediate” irreparable harm in the June primary. Quraishi acknowledged the importance of his ruling.

"Mandatory injunctive relief is reserved only for the most unusual cases," Quraishi wrote. "Plaintiffs’ burden on this Motion is therefore particularly heavy. Nevertheless, the Court finds, based on this record, that Plaintiffs have met their burden and that this is the rare instance when mandatory relief is warranted."

Kim's lawsuit received an unexpected boost when New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin called the line system "unconstitutional" in a legal filing and said he would not defend it in court, despite Gov. Phil Murphy's support for the line. Last week, the leaders of both houses of the New Jersey Legislature vowed to begin a public process on ballot design.

To read the judge's ruling, click here.

to follow Daily Voice Hudson and receive free news updates.