New Jersey primaries could one day include all voters, not just those affiliated with a political party if a California-based non-profit has its way. The Committee for a Unified Independent Party and The Independent Voter Project, which together form Endpartisanship.org, have joined a group of seven registered voters in filing the suit against Secretary of State Kim Guadagno seeking to have the current primary system declared unconstitutional because it bars nearly 50 percent of all state voters from the process. “Defendant barred nearly half of New Jersey’s registered voters from participating in New Jersey’s 2013 primary election because they exercised their right not to associate with either the Democrat or Republican Party,” the brief, filed in District Court earlier this month, states. “This action seeks to protect the fundamental right to vote under the New Jersey Constitution and U.S. Constitution from the condition required by the New Jersey Primary Election Law that a voter forfeit his or her First Amendment Right not to associate with a political party.” The suit goes on to claim that the state, which foots the bill for the annual primary election, is violating the New Jersey constitution by allocating money for the primaries, which are held on behalf of private political parties.
“Today, representatives are accountable to a small partisan base of voters,” said attorney Samuel Gregory, who represents the coalition. “Those who choose not to participate in divisive partisan politics are pushed out or left out of meaningful participation in the electoral process. We believe the system’s first obligation should be to individual voters, not to political parties. When every voter matters, leaders are rewarded for being good representatives, not good party leaders.”
New Jersey is one of 26 states that hold “closed” primaries, meaning a voter must be registered with the party in order to vote in its primary. The system is made murkier by non-competitive districts, which are drawn in a way that gives one party an advantage. In those districts, the primary often decides who will represent the district, giving not only unaffiliated voters, but also minority party voters little say in their representation.
In an “open” primary, al