Could the end of the NJ county line doom county political machines? Some wonder

April 8, 2024

The party line, a routine fixture of New Jersey primaries for nearly 80 years, appears to be doomed to the dustbin of Garden State political history.

But major questions now loom: Will the demise of this quirky, only-in-New Jersey ballot feature truly drain the power of the county chairs and the unelected party bosses? Will it make New Jersey campaigns more democratic and competitive?

Or will members of the old guard, rooted in tradition, simply adapt and wield their old power under a new system? Will the closed-door clubhouses in Middlesex, Bergen, Camden and Hudson counties still hold the levers of power in Trenton?

These are among the looming questions as the political community plunges into an unknown future, and quickly. Only one thing is for certain: The state’s politics have been changed forever.

Unless a federal appeals court rules otherwise in the coming weeks, the days of a primary ballot where candidates endorsed by the county parties are bracketed in one efficient column or line will no longer be in use for the Democratic primary on June 4.

“I think people will start to speak up and you’ll see more people entering contests,” said Julia Sass Rubin, a Rutgers professor who has helped lead the crusade against county machine power in recent years and whose studies on the impact of the line on elections served as key evidence in Quraishi’s order. “You will see more pushback … We’ll see more bravery.”, April 8, 2024

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