Rep. Andy Kim Takes Aim at Political Advantage in New Jersey Primaries with Lawsuit to Eliminate Organization Lines

TRENTON, New Jersey – A federal judge in New Jersey has scheduled a hearing for March 18 to address a lawsuit filed by Representative Andy Kim (D-Moorestown) seeking to eliminate organization lines in the state’s primaries. U.S. District Court Judge Zahid Quraishi has expedited the briefing schedule, instructing opposition briefs and motions to intervene to be filed by March 6, with reply briefs due by March 12. Judge Quraishi intends to make a decision by April 5, although he remains open to issuing it earlier.

The hearing will primarily focus on determining if county clerks can feasibly change the system in time for the June primary. However, it is unclear whether Judge Quraishi believes this is possible. With a filing deadline, ballot draws, and the mailing of vote-by-mail ballots scheduled for April, the need for a prompt decision is evident.

Representative Andy Kim, currently in his third term, is urgently requesting the court to remove organization lines for the June 4 primary election. The state’s political power structure heavily relies on county lines, which some argue give certain candidates an unfair advantage due to preferential ballot placement and discriminatory ballot design. Kim is advocating for a ballot redesign in New Jersey that adopts the “office block” style, grouping candidates by the office they are seeking rather than by party or endorsement.

The lawsuit targets nineteen county clerks who utilize a county line system. Interestingly, the New Jersey attorney general’s office, previously involved in a separate lawsuit filed by progressives and unsuccessful 2020 Democratic congressional candidates, has not yet filed to intervene in the case brought by Kim.

This lawsuit highlights the ongoing debate surrounding the fairness of organization lines in New Jersey primaries. Supporters argue that these lines provide crucial structure and organizational support to candidates, helping voters easily identify party-endorsed candidates. However, critics contend that this system biases the electoral process, limiting opportunities for non-endorsed candidates and perpetuating the status quo.

As the scheduled hearing approaches, the outcome of this lawsuit could have substantial implications for future New Jersey primaries.