Baraka on voting: ‘The line’ is bad — but another fix matters more

Newark mayor says allowing same-day registration/voting would allow more people to be part of democratic process

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka was more than willing to discuss “the line” — the uniquely New Jersey primary ballot that gives an extraordinary advantage to the favored candidates of county parties.

It’s a ballot that is the subject of a court fight this week — and the subject of conversation at any political event, such as the one-on-one conversation Baraka had Tuesday at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Florham campus.

“I just think, principally, it’s wrong,” he said. “No matter who’s running, the principle of it is incorrect — and it needs to be addressed.”

Baraka told the crowd of approximately 125 that he is glad the process is under review — and hopes it will be changed. For the sake of democracy, he said.

The county line ballot system, Baraka said, puts too much power in the hands of county chairs.

“It becomes undemocratic when you have one person that can make a decision about whether you get the line or not,” he said. “It’s just common sense undemocratic.”

But, it’s not the biggest problem with the current voting system, he said.

Baraka said failing to have same-day registration and voting does more to undermine the system than anything else. He wishes that issue would get more attention.

“In New Jersey, we fight the very moderate fight, the slow, meandering walk,” he said. “If we want to talk about democracy, we should be talking about same-day voting, we should still be talking about automatic registration, we should be talking about things that really matter to get more folks into the democratic process.

“The line is something that elite politicos fight over in order to get advantage over one another, which is important, and we need to struggle against it. But the real struggle is how to get more citizens or residents of New Jersey involved and engaged in politics.”