New Jersey Libertarians fight for fair ballot position

Patrick McKnight, LP New Jersey Chair
Patrick McKnight,
LP New Jersey Chair

The New Jersey Libertarian Party is considering legal action after the New Jersey Division of Elections declared that the Democrats and Republicans had met the voter threshold to get advantageous positions on the general election ballot.

Usually, the Democrats and Republicans get the preferred far-left positions on the ballot. Then any remaining candidates are listed to the right, and their positions are chosen by lottery, which is taking place today in each of the 21 counties.

For a recognized political party to get a prime position on the ballot, the party must have at least 10 percent of the votes cast in the preceding general election, which was last November.

Neither the Democrats nor Republicans had 10 percent of the votes in the primary, therefore, according to New Jersey election law, all candidates in each race should be chosen through a lottery in each county for ballot position.

New Jersey election law 19:5-1 says, “no political party which fails to poll at any primary election for a general election at least [10 percent] of the votes cast in the State for members of the General Assembly at the next preceding general election, held for the election of all of the members of the General Assembly, shall be entitled to have a party column on the official ballot at the general election for which the primary election has been held.”

However, the Department of Elections s using a 1999 appellate court decision that stated the vote totals should include all races on the ballot, including town council races. These extra votes would give the Democrats and Republicans the vote totals they need to meet the 10 percent threshold.

Last year, a judge agreed that the appellate court decision was wrong, and that the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in a special election should not have been allowed a party column, but dismissed the case because she said it was too close to the election to change the machines.

“Either the Libertarian Party and people of New Jersey will have won a victory for ballot equality, or we’e going to have a historic battle on our hands,” said Patrick McKnight, LP New Jersey chair. “I’m hoping for the former, but preparing for the latter.”

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