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Princeton Democrats Support Abolishing 'County Line' On Ballots

The resolution calls for a design that ensures no candidate gets an advantage over the other, on the basis of the ballot.

Patch — January 26, 2021

By Sarah Salvadore, Patch Staff

PRINCETON, NJ — Princeton Community Democratic Organization (PCDO), 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.

Nonpartisan group, Good Government Coalition of New Jersey, said the county line in the state gives preferential ballot placement to candidates endorsed by the county's Democratic or Republican Party. This allows party insiders — not voters — to choose primary election winners.

"This vote, and the widespread support that the resolution has already garnered, is an important step towards a better democracy in New Jersey," Yael Niv, President Good Government Coalition of New Jersey, said in a 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."

The Good Government Coalitionis behind the Better Ballot NJ campaign. The group first started in Princeton.

An overwhelming 92 percent voted in favor of the resolution during a virtual meeting conducted on Sunday night.

Among those present were the current and former Princeton Mayors, four Council members as well as County Commissioner Andrew Koontz and County Democratic Party Chair Janice Mironov, who is also mayor of East Windsor.

Recently, a number of former candidates and activists joined a federal lawsuit that argued that New Jersey's ballot design was unconstitutional.

According to a research conducted by Rutgers Professor Julia Sass Rubin for New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP), in the state's 2020 primary elections, candidates whose names appeared on the county line received an average boost of 35 percentage points.

"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 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 in an order that ensures each candidate has an equal chance of appearing in the first, second and subsequent positions.

This design ensures that no candidate gets an advantage over other candidate on the basis of the ballot.

The campaign was launched over a month ago and since then more than 30 organizations have supported it, including the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, New Jersey Citizen Action, and New Jersey Policy Perspective.

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