NJ Superior Court Orders Middlesex County Clerk to Create Gender-Neutral Ballots in Win for Central NJ Progressive Democrats

Middlesex County Clerk Elaine M. Flynn has been ordered by the Superior Court of New Jersey to create a gender-neutral ballot for the upcoming elections for the Middlesex County Democratic Organization. Central New Jersey Democrats filed the lawsuit to challenge the county's one man, one woman rule for candidates running for their party's county committee.

Nine candidates in five districts to run for gender neutral seats in  Middlesex County, in successful challenge to state law.

Central Jersey Progressive Democrats (CJPD) won a court  challenge late yesterday to a state law requiring gender  designation for party county committee seats. Superior Court Justice Mary C. Jacobson issued an order requiring Middlesex County Clerk Elaine  M. Flynn to design a gender-neutral ballot for the four Middlesex County  voting districts in which two women are running together, and for the  one voting district in which a non-binary candidate is seeking to be a member of the Middlesex County Democratic Organization.

“This is a tremendous step forward for women and LGBTQIA individuals,”  said the group’s attorney Yael Bromberg, who argued the case. “The  binary gender quota was well-intentioned in the middle of the last  century. However, as conceived, its time has passed in Middlesex County.

The quota proved to be a ceiling for CJPD rather than a floor, and an  outright bar for gender-nonconforming candidates. This ruling opens the  door for more women to run for office, and removes the flat-out barrier  that non-binary people face from participating in democracy,” she said.

The ‘one-man, one-woman’ rule remains in use in some of New Jersey’s 21  counties.  Mercer, Passaic, Hudson, Hunterdon, Cumberland and Essex County already  allow candidates to run and serve regardless of their sex or gender  identity.  The candidates were thrilled by the judge’s ruling, which now
allows them to run for office to represent their neighbors and better  serve their communities.

The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office responded in the matter on behalf of the State, which was listed as an interested party in the  case. The Attorney General agreed with CJPD’s position that the law is  unconstitutional, and advocated for “the need for uniformity on an  important constitutional issue for elections conducted throughout the  state.”

Non-binary candidate Em Phipps said, “It’s really important that the law  doesn’t discriminate and that anyone can run for office, regardless of  their gender identity. This is a great first step for democracy. I am  really excited to be running and to talking with my neighbors about how  to improve our community.”

Other candidates said they are thrilled with the court’s decision and  look forward to campaigning:

Maggie Doyle Ball said, “I am glad I’ll be able to offer a fresh  perspective and look forward to work to ensure a representative  government supporting my community.”

Laura Leibowitz added, “I am very excited to be a part of forward  thinking and inclusive change in Piscataway. This is why I am running  for County Committee in my neighborhood.”

Following the judge’s ruling, progressive candidate Quiyana Butler  noted, “Now it’s time to knock on doors and talk to the voters and  explain the importance of this primary election. I’m not a politician,
just a neighbor next door who seeks progressive change in Piscataway!”

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