Independent Voter Project

NJ Court Decision Stating only Dems and Reps are Qualified to Vote To Be Appealed

On Tuesday, a decision from the U.S. District Court in Newark, New Jersey to dismiss the case in Balsam et al v. Guadagno was appealed. The district court held that only Democratic and Republican voters are qualified to participate in the state-funded primary election.

(Newark, N.J.) – The plaintiffs, which include registered Republicans, Democrats, and unaffiliated voters, argued, in part, that New Jersey’s closed primary system gives the Republican and Democratic parties unfair access to the democratic franchise by excluding 2.6 million voters who have chosen not to join one of the two major parties.

The New Jersey court’s opinion, which cites the secretary of state’s defense of the current exclusionary primary system, concluded:

“Indeed, [Plaintiffs’] entire lawsuit – at least the federal portion of it – proceeds from the premise that all registered voters have a fundamental right to vote in the primary election conducted by political parties they are not members of.” -­ District Court Opinion, citing Defendant’s Reply.

That conclusion, however, was not the basis of the plaintiffs’ claim, as explicitly stated in their surreply filed with the court:

“Plaintiffs have not asked the Court to issue a decision that would require private political parties to allow non-party members to access their partisan primary elections … Rather, the New Jersey legislature would simply have to honor its pre-existing Constitutional obligation to protect the rights of individual voters by reforming the State’s primary election system in a manner that ensures all voters an opportunity to cast a meaningful vote; which has been accomplished in other jurisdictions.” – Plaintiffs’ Surreply

“Nobody should expect that a civil rights case that goes to the core of the institutionalized control over our election process is going to be easy,” said Samuel Gregory, local attorney for the plaintiffs. “We are confident that these significant constitutional issues will be decided in our favor in the future and prove to be an important step in preserving our democratic electoral system.”

Read all of the motions in this case here.


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