The U.S. Senate campaign of Tammy Murphy, the wife of Gov. Phil Murphy, is calling attention to an arcane voting system in New Jersey, which could give her an upper hand in the Democratic primary.
Murphy, 58, has never run for elected office but in the days following her announcement, many of the top Democrat Party officials in the state pledged their support.
Placement on a ballot matters, research shows
Endorsements from the county party organizations are a key feature of New Jersey’s unique voting system.
All but two of the state’s counties endorse candidates for the primary and then place their endorsed candidates all in one line. It’s called “the county line” or “the party line” and it includes candidates for various positions. In the June 2024 primary, that line would start with the incumbent president at the top, and give the impression of legitimacy to each candidate who follows. The other candidates for the same seat are placed in what’s known as ballot Siberia – way off to the right on the ballot and all alone.
In a state with a Democratic majority, the primary is likely to choose the winner for any statewide election. Additionally, no incumbent on the county line has lost a primary election since 2009, according to the researcher, Julia Sass Rubin, a professor at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University.