In primary elections, some candidates are grouped in a horizontal or vertical line by their county party, such as the Camden County Democrat Committee or Democrats for Change. This is called a “county line” or “party line.” Nineteen out of the state’s 21 counties use this kind of ballot design, and New Jersey is the only state to use this type of ballot. Other states group candidates by the office they’re running for, a design that makes it less confusing for voters and allows for a greater choice of candidates, the advocates said in their lawsuit.
A 2020 report by Julia Sass Rubin for New Jersey Policy Perspective found that this type of party grouping delivers a considerable winning advantage. Further, voters can mistakenly invalidate their ballots by voting for multiple candidates running for the same office, according to the NJPP report. Voters can also read their ballots, top down, left to right — so ballots could “favor” those whose names appear first.