Independent Coalition Challenges Constitutionality of New Jersey’s “Closed” Primary Elections in United States Supreme Court

SCOTUS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – July 8, 2015
Contact: Jim Jonas jim@independentvoterproject.org | 720.256.8956

Independent Coalition Challenges Constitutionality of New Jersey’s “Closed” Primary Elections in United States Supreme Court

Petition for ‘Writ of Certiorari’ questions constitutionality of denying 47% of New Jersey’s voters who choose not to affiliate with a political party an “equally meaningful vote” at every integral stage of elections

 (San Diego, CA) – A national coalition of election reform organizations led by the Independent Voter Project (IVP) filed a petition for ‘Writ of Certiorari’ with the Supreme Court of the United States today in a case challenging the constitutionality of New Jersey’s closed primary election system. The issue in question is whether the New Jersey statute mandating that otherwise qualified voters join one of two particular political parties as a condition of voting at an integral stage of the State’s election process violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

IVP is petitioning the court to declare the fundamental right to vote is a nonpartisan right. Under its current law, however, New Jersey requires that a voter join either the Republican or Democratic political parties as a condition of participating at an integral stage of its non-presidential elections. Such a system robs citizens of the most important liberty asserted in the Declaration of Independence: the right to govern themselves.

“The notion that two partisan political organizations have built special equity that outweighs the individual’s fundamental right to vote offends the most basic building block of our democracy,” said S. Chad Peace, of IVP and one of the coalition’s attorneys. “There is no legitimate reason to give the members of two political parties exclusive access to an integral stage of a public election process. Doing so compromises the stability and health of democracy and all of its institutions.”

For more information about this case, the Writ of Certiorari, the Independent Voter Project and to read all court filings: http://www.independentvoterproject.org/newjersey

Specifically, the writ challenges a lower court’s ruling as improperly framed as a protection of the two state-qualified political parties’ right of private association, a right never contested. The coalition does not want, nor legally seeks, the right to participate in private Democratic or Republican Party primaries. They seek just the opposite: an end to their exclusion from an integral stage of the public election process.

Mirroring the rise in individual voter’s rights issues and the explosive growth of voters choosing to not affiliate with either major political party, nationwide, the Supreme Court made clear in the recent Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission case, that, in Justice Ginsberg’s words: “The animating principle of our Constitution is that the people themselves are the originating source of all the powers of government.”

And yet, those people (voters) who choose not to affiliate with a political party are being denied an equally meaningful voice in the New Jersey political process. As with women’s suffrage, racial equality, and malapportionment, the equal rights of all voters were not always a part of our national experience. The Supreme Court has, over time, recognized that the fundamental right to vote derives from citizenship and nothing else. It has also required that changes be made when infringements on that right are not tolerable to the fundamental concepts of individual liberty, equality, and self-government.

Of note, as New Jersey lacks a public initiative process, disenfranchised voters have no other reasonable path to seek enforcement of their individual voting rights as the two major political parties have complete control over the initial, and often most important, stage of the election process. Unless the Supreme Court considers whether this system is constitutionally permissible, these two major political parties will maintain control over the People of the New Jersey forever.

The writ cites previous court rulings (including Reynolds v. Sims and Gray v. Sanders, where the Supreme Court first articulated the “one person, one vote” standard), arguing that the Supreme Court has already upheld the fundamental right all voters have to full and equal participation in all integral stages of the elections process multiple times, something the lower courts have not disputed in their decisions.

For more information about this case, the Writ of Certiorari, the Independent Voter Project and to read all court filings: http://www.independentvoterproject.org/newjersey

A Petition for Writ of Certiorari

A petition for a ‘Writ of Certiorari’ asks the Supreme Court “to be more fully informed” and to order a lower court to deliver its record in a case so that the higher court may review it. In April 2015, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s ruling dismissing the coalition’s suit, citing the state’s argument that if voters feel disenfranchised by the current electoral process, they can “simply join [a] party.”

About The Independent Voter Project

The Independent Voter Project (www.IndependentVoterProject.org) authored California’s landmark nonpartisan, top-two primary election reform, which voters approved under Proposition 14 in 2010. However, IVP does not seek to establish top-two as the only alternative system and promotes several possible election remedies the state of New Jersey could implement to assure equally meaningful participation in all integral stages of elections for all voters.

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About thecenterwins

Jim Jonas is a strategic communications consultant for corporate, nonprofit and public affairs organizations. He and his firm, JKJ Partners, have worked with campaigns and causes from both national parties and for political reform efforts to promote centrist and independent candidates and organizations across the country.
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