Independent Voter Project

Morristown Green: Lawsuit to Overhaul New Jersey Primary System

The legal challenge says it aims to open elections to more voters nationwide and end political gridlock.

New Jersey primaries are unconstitutional because they exclude nearly half the state’s voters, according to the lawsuit, filed this month in U.S. District

Most legislative districts have been drawn as “safe” for either Democratic or Republican candidates, the suit asserts, so the only real contests are in the primaries. And those primaries are closed to voters who don’t register as Democrats or Republicans–some 48 percent of the electorate in the Garden State and 42 percent of voters across the United States. The plaintiffs say this:

  • Violates citizens’ fundamental right under the Fourteenth Amendment to an equal and meaningful vote, regardless of party affiliation.
  • Tramples citizens’ First Amendment right not to associate with private organizations; voters should not be required to surrender their First Amendment rights in order to exercise their Fourteenth Amendment rights.
  • Rips off taxpayers, whose public funds are subsidizing private elections–in violation of the state Constitution.

New Jersey spent at least $12 million on last summer’s special primary for U.S. Senate, according to Yet fewer than 8 percent of registered voters participated–working out to about $92 per vote cast–while 2.6 million unaffiliated voters were shut out, the organization said.

“There are many, many voters who have given up on the electoral system because they know it’s a rigged, exclusionary system,” said Jackie Salit, president of New, which teamed with the Independent Voter Project  of California to challenge the parties in court.

Read the full story on the Morristown Green

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