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Democracy Advocates Hail Court's Rejection of County Line on New Jersey's Primary Ballots

Press Release / Last Updated:

NEWARK — In a resounding victory for democracy in New Jersey today, the Court in Kim v. Hanlon, a case challenging New Jersey’s use of the unconstitutional and discriminatory county line on its primary ballots, granted plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction – barring use of the county line on New Jersey’s ballots in the June primary election. The Court ordered counties to use the fairer and more commonly used “office block” design on their ballots.

It is anticipated that as the case continues, the Court will prohibit use of the county line on primary ballots in all future elections, as well.

The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and Campaign Legal Center today – along with their clients the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, Salvation and Social Justice, New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice and New Jersey Policy Perspective (collectively, “Amici”) – who filed an amicus brief in the case – hailed the decision, as set forth in the quotes below.

"The Court’s decision is the start of a new day for democracy in New Jersey,” said Henal Patel, Law & Policy Director at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “The county line has been a scourge on New Jersey’s democracy for decades, diluting our votes and disempowering the voices of our Black and other residents of color. Our ballots will finally be free of the line in this coming primary election, and once final disposition is reached in the case, permanently – putting the power back in the hands of the people, where it belongs.”

"Fair ballot design is a core part of a functional democracy,” said Kevin Hancock, Director of Strategic Litigation for the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center. “Ballot design impacts voters, not just candidates for office — and an unfair ballot design disproportionately silences voters of color and lower-income communities. This victory means a more fair election, which leads to better policy outcomes because elected officials will be truly accountable to the voters they were elected to serve.”

"It's a new dawn for democracy in New Jersey," said Jesse Burns, Executive Director, League of Women Voters of New Jersey. "Power is finally shifting to voters, where it belongs. This decision is years in the making and wouldn't be possible without the efforts of so many in our state working to chip away at the undemocratic and unconstitutional line."

"We are pleased with the Court’s decision and celebrate today’s victory alongside voters and all defenders of democracy in this state. We are looking forward to the final disposition making this change permanent and putting an end to the power structures that for too long have hindered New Jersey residents from realizing the potential of this state’s democratic principles,” said Racquel Romans-Henry, Policy Director of Salvation and Social Justice.

"Today, the court affirmed what advocates have been saying for years: the power of elections belongs to voters, not politicians and party insiders. This is a historic case that will have ramifications across New Jersey politics for generations to come, but this decision would not have been possible without the decades of tireless advocacy and organizing that preceded it,” said Amy Torres, Executive Director of New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice. “Now that this voter suppression relic is behind us, it's time to move New Jersey from worst to first on democracy and election transparency. The line was just the first step in continuing to fight for greater access at the polls, same day voter registration, campaign finance transparency, and the New Jersey Voting Rights Act. Today's win belongs to the movement, and though the case may be finished, we aren't done fighting yet."

"This is a huge win for democracy that will change New Jersey politics forever,” said Louis Di Paolo, Vice President of New Jersey Policy Perspective. “The line on our primary ballots concentrates enormous power in the hands of a select few party insiders, and now voters will finally be able to choose their own representatives. This will not only bring fair elections to New Jersey but also result in better policy outcomes now that elected officials will actually be accountable to voters. It took a movement to get us here, and all of the good government advocates, academics, attorneys and candidates working on this deserve an enormous amount of credit for their courage and persistence.”

A summary of Amici’s position in the case can be found here.


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