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Democratic congressional candidate Zina Spezakis

Spezakis launches group to eliminate party lines

By Nikita Biryukov, November 11 2020 1:56 pm

A former congressional candidate launched an organization that aims to do away with New Jersey’s party-line system Wednesday.

“In New Jersey, unelected and unaccountable party bosses and political machines have for years relied on arcane state laws related to the design of primary election ballots to maintain their complete control over the state’s politics,” Zina Spezakis said.

Earlier this year, Spezakis, the founder and executive director of the Fair Ballot Project, launched an unsuccessful primary challenge against Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson), who won with more than 80% of the vote.

New Jersey, uniquely, uses party lines to determine the layout of their ballots. In the general election, this means Democrats are bracketed with Democrats and Republicans with Republicans.

In the Primary, it means organization-backed candidates are on a line with other organization backed candidates, a fact that progressive activists argue disadvantages primary challengers. Since 1980, only two primary challengers have come close to unseating a House incumbent in New Jersey, and none have succeeded.

“New Jersey’s political bosses and machines should not be allotted this unfair advantage going into local elections,” Spezakis said. “Any candidate that wishes to fairly participate in the democratic process should be allotted a noticeable spot on the ballot regardless of their party involvement or affiliation. Anything otherwise is unethical, and results in confusion, voter suppression, and dilutes the local democratic process.”

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