Top legislative leaders now interested in looking at ballot design reform

In middle of court battle, Scutari, Bucco, Coughlin and DiMaio suggest Legislature is where issue should be addressed

Top legislative leaders now interested in looking at ballot design reform

The top leaders in the state Senate and General Assembly said they are open to looking at discussing ballot design reform in the Legislature, saying that is where the issue should be determine.

The good news: If they are truly interested, they already have a few bills on the subject that have thus far failed to advance.

State Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Ewing Twp.) has a bill (S1566) that prohibits placing primary election candidates into political party lines on primary ballot.

Sen. Troy Singleton (D- Moorestown) recently joined as a co-sponsor. The bill currently sits in the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee, awaiting to be assigned a hearing.

It should be noted that incumbents generally benefit greatly from the current system, potentially the reason there has been little appetite to change the ballot up to this point.

On Tuesday night, Senate President Nicholas Scutari (D-Clark), Senate Minority Leader Anthony Bucco (R-Denville), Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Woodbridge) and Assembly Minority Leader John DiMaio (R-Hackettstown) said their new interest comes following the news of the week.

“We have listened to the public debate surrounding ballot design in New Jersey, read the letter from the attorney general of March 17, and have seen reports of the hearing in the United States District Court on Monday, March 18,” they wrote. “We have previously understood New Jersey’s ballot design law to be one that has withstood scrutiny from the New Jersey Supreme Court and has been in place for at least 80 years.

“As many involved in the legal process have pointed out, there is longstanding precedent that the Legislature has the authority to determine the law regarding ballot design and the appropriate discretion used by county clerks. Accordingly, the proper authority to consider modifications is the Legislature.”

The four said they are the best to oversee the process.

“As leaders, we have a demonstrated record of working in a bipartisan way on issues regarding voting rights and the transparency of counting ballots, and we are prepared to work in a bipartisan manner to ensure public trust in a transparent and democratic process in New Jersey,” they said.

“We are committed to beginning a public process on ballot design in New Jersey, including a thorough and thoughtful review of other states, as well as a process that involves input from the public.”