With all 21 county clerks about to draw candidate positions for the general election, some New Jersey third parties are preparing to take legal action to get their candidates equal billing with Democrats and Republicans in November. At issue is the state’s law that has allowed the Democratic and Republican Parties to get the two top slots on the ballot every November. If the two major parties get priority, officials in at least two political organizations — the Democratic-Repubilcans and the Libertarians — say they’ll sue. “Either the Libertarian Party and people of New Jersey will have won a history victory for ballot equality, or we’re going to have a historic battle on our hands,” said Patrick McKnight , chairman of the Libertarian Party. “I’m hoping for the former, but preparing for the latter.” Fred LaVergne, a “Democratic-Republican” candidate Congress in the 3rd District, said he plans a separate suit. County clerks hold drawings to determine where candidates go on the ballot after the Secretary of State certifies the primary election results. But under New Jersey law, political parties get a special “party column” if, in their primary elections, they received at least 10 percent of the total number of votes that were cast for Assembly candidates in the preceding general election. The party column means they’re at the top of the ballot.
Guadagno today certified that Democrats and Republicans are entitled to the party columns. County clerks plan to hold their drawings on Monday.
On its face, it doesn’t look like Democrats and Republicans can meet that threshold. Last year, 3,721,971 votes were cast for Assembly candidates (each voter casts votes for two candidates). Guadagno certified the number of votes political parties needed for preferential ballot placement at exactly 10 percent of that number, or 372,197.
Neither party reached that figure in terms of voter turnout in this year’s June 4 primary, with just 240,749 Democrats turning out and 175,316 Republicans.
But it’s not that simple.