New Jersey Working Families Celebrates 1 Year of Advocacy to Abolish the Line
Advocates voice experiences being excluded by antiquated primary ballot system unique to New Jersey
New Jersey Working Families State Director Sue Altman released the following statement to celebrate the community of advocates who have worked to abolish the ballot line (abolishtheline.org) over the past year:
Over the past year, a coalition of former office seekers, good government advocates and ordinary citizens have come together to support a lawsuit that will put an end to the antiquated and unfair Ballot Line. The Ballot Line prevents New Jersey from realizing its full democratic potential by excluding newcomers to the political arena who wish to make a difference in government.
New Jersey deserves to function as a full democracy. It does not function this way today particularly in our primary election system. The Ballot Line rigs the system to favor party insiders and robs New Jerseyans of the opportunity to freely choose among equally presented candidates for nomination for elected office in the state.
Party bosses use the Ballot Line to anoint preferred candidates that they expect to do the party’s bidding in office. The Ballot Line excludes individuals whose candidacy challenges incumbents or whose candidacy party insiders consider to be outside of the mainstream. These candidates are often placed in isolation on the far side of the ballot, in a section of the ballot known as “ballot Siberia.”
The results are clear. Incumbents almost never lose their campaigns for their party’s nomination. Challengers do not have the opportunity to have their names presented as equals. Candidates with fresh ideas or a new and different platform don’t stand a chance to win nomination. The nominating process is an exercise in which candidate can most please the party establishment. This creates a distance between candidates and their constituents.
This flawed, outdated system breeds corruption, unresponsive government, and fosters a cozy relationship between professional contractors and incumbent politicians, making New Jersey one of the most expensive states in the country. If we want “affordability,” a great first step is eliminating the systems that keep in place the same politically-connected firms that make millions off our taxpayer dollars each year.
A fairer system of primary elections will unleash new interest in public service and reinvigorate the contest of ideas that should be part of every campaign for a party’s nomination.