Home>Articles>Organization lines offer significant advantage in primaries, study shows

Julia Sass Rubin, an associate professor at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University.

Organization lines offer significant advantage in primaries, study shows

By David Wildstein, August 13 2020 10:26 am

Candidates with county organization lines receive extraordinary advantages in primary elections, according to an analysis conducted by New Jersey Policy Perspective.

“The county line also increases voter confusion, contributing to overvotes and undervotes. The impact of the county line appeared to be greatest in races that did not involve an incumbent,” said Julia Sass Rubin, an associate professor at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, conducted the study. “Candidates share of the vote varied by as much as 50 percentage points, based on whether or not they were on the county line.”

The biggest apparent split was seen in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate. Hirsh Singh won 73% of the vote in counties where he had the line, though he won just 23% in counties where Rik Mehta had organizational support.

The fourth congressional district’s primary saw a similar trend. Stephanie Schmid, the Democratic nominee, won 72% of the vote in counties that backed here, but she won only 32% in places where rival Christine Conforti had organizational support.

On average, the report said, the party line accounted for a 35% swing in four races where counties did not align behind one candidate.

According to the study, candidates performed better when they were included on the county line than when they were not, in nine of the ten contests.

“The most substantial difference in performance was in the four contests in which different candidates were on the county line in different counties in the same congressional district,’ Rubin said.  “In those four contests, the average vote margin between appearing on the county line and having your opponent on the county line was 38 percentage points.”

Rubin said that county lines appear to “contribute to voter confusion, resulting in substantial overvotes and undervotes.”

“Being on the county line appears to provide candidates with an advantage,” she said.

NJPP Report - Does the County Line Matter Analysis of New Jersey's 2020 Primary Election Results (1)
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