Insider NJ

Princeton Democrats Support Resolution To Abolish The County Line

Insider NJ — January 25, 2021

January 25 — Yesterday, 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.

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 percentage points.

"This vote — and the widespread support that the resolution has already garnered — is an important step towards a better democracy in New Jersey," said 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. "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 percent of Princeton Community Democratic Organization (PCDO) members voted to support the resolution at their January monthly meeting, which took place virtually via Zoom.

"I am delighted — but not surprised — that the PCDO overwhelmingly supported the Better Ballot resolution," said PCDO President Jo Butler. "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. Such a design ensures that no candidate is advantaged over other candidates simply on the basis of the ballot.

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.

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