Poll: New Jersey voters want limits on party politics

(The Center Square) – New Jersey is the only state in the country where county-level political parties can endorse candidates in primary elections, and give them preferential placement on the ballot.

But a new poll, conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University, found a majority of New Jersey voters believe county-level parties should stay out of the balloting process.

Under New Jersey’s election laws, candidates nominated for primaries by local Democratic or Republican organizations are listed on a party, or county, line at the top of a ballot.

Other candidates, including independent write-ins, are listed in other columns that are jokingly referred to as “ballot Siberia.”

The university’s survey of 800 voters between Oct. 24 and Nov. 1 found at least 65% said they believe county-level political party organizations shouldn’t be allowed to give endorsed candidates preferential ballot positions.

“The big question isn’t whether voters like the current system,” said Dan Cassino, a professor of politics and government at the university, who directed the poll. “It’s whether it’s a voting issue for people.”

Despite the public antipathy towards the state’s balloting system, he said, changing the process will be difficult.

“If it’s not driving people to vote differently, it’s going to be hard to convince parties to give up this kind of influence,” Cassino said.

Not surprisingly, the poll found divisions across party lines. Republicans were more likely to back party control, while progressive Democrats were more likely to push for change.

“New Jersey political parties have been better able to hold on to their influence than parties almost anywhere else,” Cassino said. “The push to make changes to the system has been coming from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, which wants to push the state’s Democratic establishment to the left.”

New Jersey is facing a federal lawsuit over its ballot structure, which voting access advocates say unfairly allows political parties to stifle competition and control primary elections.

A 2020 report by New Jersey Policy Perspective, a nonpartisan think tank, found the state’s party line system is “confusing” to voters and favors party insiders.

“New Jersey’s primary ballot design reflects a combination of state laws and decades of court rulings that have created a confusing patchwork of regulations,” the report’s authors wrote. “The state’s county party organizations seem to have taken advantage of this confusion to control the design of primary ballots, as a powerful means of benefitting the election of their chosen candidates.”

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.