Eugene Mazo and Lisa McCormick have taken their fight for fair elections in New Jersey to the highest court in the United States.
The Democratic duo has filed a challenge with the US Supreme Court, targeting New Jersey’s primary election ballot laws, which they argue are unconstitutional and enable power brokers to manipulate the electoral process.
Mazo, a nationally recognized election scholar and law school professor, and McCormick, the progressive Democratic activist who garnered 159,998 votes statewide against Senator Bob Menendez in the 2018 primary, have long been advocates for electoral reform and transparency in the political system.
Mazo and McCormick believe that the current ballot laws in New Jersey give an unfair advantage to establishment candidates and party bosses, hindering the ability of independent and lesser-known contenders to compete on a level playing field.
“The crux of our argument rests on the claim that New Jersey’s primary election ballot laws violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the US Constitution, which protect the rights of political association and equal protection under the law,” said McCormick. “We contend that these laws disproportionately favor candidates with establishment support, restricting the choices available to voters and diminishing the democratic process.”
The primary election ballot laws in question give party bosses and elected county clerks unprecedented power to design ballots.
“These politicians award the coveted party ‘line’ to favored candidates, grouping them together in a prime position on the ballot to attract maximum attention from voters,” according to New Jersey Working Families Alliance and several other partners that filed a separate lawsuit to end the unfair ballot rigging. “The candidates who are not endorsed by party bosses are relegated to ‘Ballot Siberia,’ in places where voters have a harder time finding them, minimizing visibility. The result is devastating for candidates fighting for political change, as no incumbent state legislator has lost a primary in New Jersey since 2009.”
Mazo and McCormick sued New Jersey in 2020 after they were blocked from listing specific groups and businesses next to their names on their ballots. The two candidates for U.S. House seats, both Democrats, argue that this requirement violated the First Amendment by restricting political speech and excessively burdening independent or lesser-known candidates.
They say it creates an unfair advantage for those political insiders who have the resources and established party networks.
“The current system grants undue power to party insiders and power brokers who can selectively support candidates and manipulate the nomination process to their advantage,” said McCormick. “This manipulation undermines the will of the electorate and stifles political diversity and competition.”
Mazo and McCormick’s challenge to these laws has gained momentum and public attention, with many advocates for electoral reform rallying behind their cause.
They argue that a fairer, more inclusive primary election process is essential for a vibrant democracy and that the current laws in New Jersey perpetuate a system that disadvantages independent-minded candidates and protects the status quo.
If the US Supreme Court decides to hear the case, it could have far-reaching implications for New Jersey, the only state with such grossly unfair primary election ballot laws.
The decision could potentially redefine the influence of political bosses that benefit from the concentration of power within established party organizations.
As the legal challenge moves forward, all eyes are now on the US Supreme Court and its willingness to consider the constitutionality of New Jersey’s primary election ballot laws.
Mazo and McCormick’s fight represents a crucial step towards achieving a more transparent and fair electoral system, one that ensures every candidate, regardless of party affiliation or political clout, has an equal opportunity to compete for public office.