The Irony of the Kim Filing

Andy Kim is doing pretty well, having just racked up three wins this month in Democratic county conventions.

But he’s still not satisfied with the process – so much so that he filed a federal suit Monday challenging the power of party bosses to draw up ballots.

“The race took a turn” (in his direction), Kim told reporters over Zoom. “But it’s still the same thing.”

The “same thing” is the “county line” – shorthand for a ballot makeup that puts candidates endorsed by county leaders in a favorable position.

This is done by both parties in New Jersey, but the current interest revolves around the Democratic Senate primary, which is mostly between Kim and First Lady Tammy Murphy.

Kim’s suit was joined by congressional candidates Carolyn Rush (District 2) and Sarah Schoengood (District 3).

The plaintiffs want a court injunction to halt how ballots are drawn in advance of the June 4 primary. The suit includes many exhibits and stipulations from political scientists claiming how unfair the state’s system is.

It presents examples of many New Jersey ballots in which an endorsed candidate is “featured together on the ballot in the same column, known as the county line. The system provides preferential ballot position for such candidates and displays them in a manner that nudges voters to select them, even when they otherwise might not. By contrast, their opponents are often excluded from a chance at preferential ballot placement, displayed in a column by themselves, or in a manner that is less appealing to, or harder to find for voters ….”

In its place. Kim wants all candidates for office – Senate in this case – to be listed in the same column. He says he has no problem with county committees endorsing candidates. It is the ballot placement that bothers him.

There is some irony here.

As mentioned, Kim has won three county conventions – Monmouth, Burlington and Hunterdon. Therefore, he will presumably get preferential spots on the ballot in all three counties.

To that, Kim points to the larger issue – the system is still unfair.

He also is thinking practically.

Conventional wisdom suggests that Murphy will be endorsed by party leaders – and thereby get the good ballot position – in the more populous Democratic counties such as Essex and Hudson.

Kim put it this way:

“The First Lady is weaponizing the county line.”

Arguments against the “county line” are not new, but what seems like an arcane dispute has gotten much attention of late primarily because of the battle between Kim and Murphy.

It’s true the current system seems unfair to any objective observer, but whether it is illegal is another question.

Kim contends that the overall problem here is the real issue, noting that county party leaders are not going to give up their power voluntarily.

That point is made. But you can’t ignore the fact that both at county conventions and in recent polls, Kim is doing pretty well under the current rules.

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3 responses to “The Irony of the Kim Filing”

  1. Asian American Voters Alliance is for Andy Kim not because he is Asian but simply because he is a better candidate! A far better candidate for New Jersey and our nation – America!

  2. Maybe the county line would not be as big of an issue (still bad and should be abolished) if it was granted the same in every county, with a fair convention of secret ballots. What makes it truly evil is that several counties don’t even have a vote, it’s just granted by the municipal chair, some counties have weak behind-the-scenses votes of only a few, and others have a convention with hands-up votes tempered with intimidation. Hope the judge understands the whole picture.

  3. Maybe the county ballot line suit is not so far-fetched after Murphy’s wife won Bergen and is coming up on Somerset, where she has the edge. Kim may be right here.

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