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New Jersey election officials prepare new primary ballots – NBC10 Philadelphia

In the June 4 primary election, New Jersey voters will be faced with redesigned ballots that have a different layout depending on the voter's party affiliation.

The change came after Democratic Rep. Andy Kim and others filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the state's so-called county line system of primary elections.

A judge ruled in Kim's favor, saying the county line system favors candidates supported by the Democratic Party. Republican candidates – whose ballots were not the subject of this lawsuit – will continue to use the county line system.

The county line system – a ballot design unique to New Jersey – groups candidates on ballots with party support in a single column.

For this reason, the court found that it might be more difficult for voters to find the names of candidates without establishment support on the ballot.

From now on, ballots for the Democratic primary will be sorted according to the office the candidate is seeking – a pattern similar to that used in other states.

NBC10's Lauren Mayk spoke with John Schmidt, the deputy county clerk who redesigned the ballots for the Democratic primary in Camden County.

He said the changes had led to some long nights in his office.

“It went on late into the night,” he said. “I was up until two in the morning, so three or four nights in a row, trying to figure this out.”

And, he said, the different layouts of Republican and Democratic ballots have caused confusion among voters in the run-up to the upcoming primaries.

“We get a lot of questions about the ballots just because the Democratic and Republican ballots look different,” he said.

To help the state's voters who may be accustomed to the county line system, Schmidt said he advised them to look for slogans – because Democratic candidates can still run with slogans even if they are not grouped with others running under the same slogan on the ballot – to find the candidates they are looking for.

“We tell them to pay attention to the slogans that appear on the ballots and follow them to find similar candidates in similar brackets,” Schmidt said.

Ultimately, the new system only applies to the primary elections; the future of the county line system in other elections is still unclear.

“Either there will have to be a legal solution or there will be a court decision telling us how to proceed,” said Schmidt.

Anna Harden

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