Wednesday Webinar: Does the County Line Matter?

The war over the county line.

Rutgers Professor Julia Sass Rubin presented her research findings on the unequal impact of New Jersey’s unique “county line” primary ballot design on Wednesday’s webinar.  Dr. Rubin stressed that New Jersey is the only state to use such primary ballot designs as opposed to bracketed ballots used in most states. Salem and Sussex County do not use primary county lines.  Moreover, it was noted that both Democratic and Republican parties do not need to agree on the same primary ballot format. Ultimately a party chairperson can facilitate the change.

The presentation summarized how structuring ballots around the county line affects election outcome, which some argue adversely impacts the advancement of women, LGBTQ+ candidates, and candidates of color seeking to serve under-represented communities.  Over 70 people attended the presentation, including Monmouth Democratic Chairman David Brown and Vice Chairman Mary Foster.

According to Dr. Rubin, this “county line” ballot design encourages voters to select the candidates on the line because they are easy to find and visually distinct.  This often results in voters not recognizing that some positions are contested, or mistakenly voting for too many candidates in a given position which results in disqualifying the vote.

In January, a coalition of progressive candidates and organizations united by filing a  landmark lawsuit demanding reforms in New Jersey elections, claiming the primary ballots unfairly favor candidates highlighted by the county line. Dr. Rubin stated her support for this suit.

Insider NJ Link:  (

Dr.Rubin, Wednesday night’s presenter, is an Associate Professor at Rutgers University and an Associate Visiting Professor at Princeton University, with PhD, MBA, MA and BA degrees from Harvard University. She is one of the founding board members of the Good Government Coalition of NJ: a nonpartisan, grassroots organization whose mission is to strengthen democracy in NJ through greater transparency, accountability, and voter participation

This event was co-sponsored by: Howell Democratic Club, Wall Township Democrats, Fair Haven Democratic Club and Our Revolution Monmouth.


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