A 2001 state appellate court ruling that allowed New Jersey voters to register as members of political parties other than just Democratic or Republican has left election officials without a way to stop people from registering with a party that no longer exists.
The Natural Law Party and the Reform Party both stopped operating in 2004, but New Jersey continues to allow voters to join those parties as because the state doesn’t seem to know how to legally remove them.
The Division of Elections referred inquiries to the Attorney General’s office, but they told the New Jersey Globe it’s not up to them.
It’s unclear to state government how new parties are added and old ones deleted.
Political party status comes with some perks: an official independent party can accept contributions of up to $25,000 and contribute an unlimited amount to candidates.
Minor party registration has increased by 2169% since the 2016 primary.
The now-defunct Natural Law Party, which shut down in 2004, has seen their voter registration jump from 396 voters in June 2016 to 7,019 this year.
The Reform Party of New Jersey was founded in 1995 as a vehicle for Ross Perot’s independent presidential campaign, has grown from 146 members to 1,987 now, even though the organization disbanded more than 15 years ago.
The Division of Elections says a design flaw at the state Motor Vehicle Commission is responsible for a sudden surge that attaches the wrong party identification to some voters.
Under the state’s 2018 Motor Voter law automatically registers any eligible voter conducting a transaction at a state motor vehicle agency unless they specifically opt-out.
The prompt refers to a screen allows voter to select a party affiliation: Democratic, Republican, Unaffiliated or other.
If the choice is other, the voter is taken to a new screen that offers a choice of seven third-party options: Green, Libertarian, N.J. Conservative, Natural Law, Reform, Socialist or U.S. Constitution.
The design flaw is that voters must pick one of those seven parties; there is no way to complete the motor vehicle transaction without doing so.