Civil Rights Groups Appeal NJ Court Decision That Only Democrats and Republicans are Qualified to Vote

(Newark, N.J.) – On Tuesday, the EndPartisanship.org coalition appealed a decision from the U.S. District Court in Newark, New Jersey. The district court held that only Democratic and Republican voters are qualified to participate in the state-funded primary election.

The plaintiffs, which include registered Republicans, Democrats, and unaffiliated voters, argued, in part, that New Jersey’s closed primary system gives the Republican and Democratic parties unfair access to the democratic franchise by excluding 2.6 million voters who have chosen not to join one of the two major parties.

The New Jersey court’s opinion, which cites the secretary of state’s defense of the current exclusionary primary system, concluded:

“Indeed, [Plaintiffs’] entire lawsuit – at least the federal portion of it – proceeds from the premise that all registered voters have a fundamental right to vote in the primary election conducted by political parties they are not members of.” -­ District Court Opinion, citing Defendant’s Reply.

That conclusion, however, was not the basis of the plaintiffs’ claim, as explicitly stated in their surreply filed with the court:

“Plaintiffs have not asked the Court to issue a decision that would require private political parties to allow non-party members to access their partisan primary elections … Rather, the New Jersey legislature would simply have to honor its pre-existing Constitutional obligation to protect the rights of individual voters by reforming the State’s primary election system in a manner that ensures all voters an opportunity to cast a meaningful vote; which has been accomplished in other jurisdictions.” – Plaintiffs’ Surreply

“Nobody should expect that a civil rights case that goes to the core of the institutionalized control over our election process is going to be easy,” said Samuel Gregory, local attorney for the plaintiffs. “We are confident that these significant constitutional issues will be decided in our favor in the future and prove to be an important step in preserving our democratic electoral system.”

Read all of the motions in this case here.

The EndPartisanship.org coalition was co-founded by the Independent Voter Project and IndependentVoting.org, both national 501(c)(4) nonprofit organizations. The coalition includes a diverse group of independent organizations, media outlets, election reform advocates, and other participants from across the political spectrum and from across the country. The complete current list of coalition members can be found on the EndPartisanship.org coalition’s website.

EndPartisanship.org coalition members believe in three core principles:

  1. The right to a meaningful vote is fundamental.
  2. The right to a meaningful vote cannot be abridged by a requirement to join any organization.
  3. Public funds cannot be used to subsidize the private activities of political parties.

Learn more about the EndPartisanship.org coalition and its national plans on its website, EndPartisanship.org.