New Jersey 2014 Primary Turnout is So Low, Major Parties May Lose Party Columns on November 2014 Ballot

On August 6, the New Jersey Elections Department posted this turnout data for the June 3, 2014 primary. It shows that only 240,749 voters participated in the Democratic primary, and only 175,316 voters participated in the Republican primary.

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% 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.”

When one reads that sentence, it may be helpful to know that “next preceding” is a legal term that means “last” or “previous.”

In November 2013, when New Jersey last elected its legislature, there were 2,120,866 votes cast for Governor. The state doesn’t say how many voters turned out to vote in that election, but obviously a few voters turned out and left Governor blank, so the true number of “votes cast” in November 2013 must be slightly more than 2,120,866. If one takes “votes cast” to mean the number of voters who cast a ballot, then the Republican Party’s turnout in June 2014 is under 10%, and the Republican Party won’t be entitled to a party column heading in November 2014. But in the past, the New Jersey elections office has interpreted “votes cast” to mean the total number of votes cast, as opposed to the number of voters. Each legislative district elects two members, so under that interpretation, the “votes cast” in November 2013 for General Assembly was approximately 4,000,000. Under that interpretation, the Democratic Party also failed to qualify for a party column.

Both the D-R Party, and the Libertarian Party, are watching to see if New Jersey election officials really do deprive either or both the major parties of a party column heading in the November 2014 election. New Jersey and New Hampshire are the only states that have party column headings for qualified parties, but not unqualified parties. Even New York, which also has party column ballots, gives party column headings to unqualified parties. Most states don’t use party column ballots any longer.


New Jersey 2014 Primary Turnout is So Low, Major Parties May Lose Party Columns on November 2014 Ballot — No Comments

  1. The odds of NJ election officials actually depriving the Democrats and/or Republicans their party ballot columns are about the same as me winning the lottery. They’ll likely invent some sort of legal loophole or whatnot. And if that’s the case, the Libertarians and any other minor parties in NJ ought to have a protest in front of the election office, and a lawsuit if possible wouldn’t hurt either. No more special treatment for the Democrats and Republicans.

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