New Jersey’s electoral process just got upended

April 11, 2024

The day after Bob Menendez, New Jersey’s senior senator, was indicted for corruption, Andy Kim, a congressman, announced he would take on his powerful fellow Democrat in the upcoming Senate race. But the bigger obstacle to his bid was not Mr Menendez, whose support among Democrats quickly disappeared. It was an archaic primary process called the county line. New Jersey is the only state in America which brackets endorsements made by county party chairs and gives endorsees prime real estate on the ballot.

Party leaders give preferential placement to their candidates. Those not on the county line are tucked away in obscure rows and columns. Julia Sass Rubin of Rutgers University looked at 20 years of New Jersey races and found that the county line steered voters and helped preferred candidates by an average difference of 38%. Another study found county-line benefits ranged from four to 28 percentage points.

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