NJ Senate Race Heats Up: Attorney General Deems Ballot Unconstitutional (Updated)

by Staff
nj senate

Updated 3/24/2024

Since publishing, Tammy Murphy has dropped out of the race. The abrupt end to her campaign essentially hands Kim the Democratic nomination for NJ Senate, though it has still yet to be seen if Murphy’s name will be taken off the ballot party line for the June 4 primary. Murphy has not yet endorsed Kim, but has called for party unity. This change in the election playing field does not change the Attorney General’s decision to go along with Kim in challenging NJ primary ballots as unconstitutional. 

Because of NJ’s long history of election Democratic Senators, Murphy’s dropping out not only hands Kim the nomination, but, virtually, the election as well. It is expected that Kim will be nominated to the Senate with ease come November.

In February, amidst a heated primary race for the vacant seat left by disgraced Senator Bob Menendez, Representative Andy Kim (D) filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming that NJ’s primary ballot is unconstitutional. To the surprise of some, NJ Attorney General Matthew Platkin will not defend the ballots, ultimately deeming the structure unconstitutional.

Kim cited the fact that the primaries give an unfair advantage to county-backed candidates like his opponent Tammy Murphy (D) in his case to the state. With New Jersey being a strong blue state, the Senate Primary in many ways names the next NJ Senator considering the hurdle a Republican would have to overcome to win the seat in a General election. In fact, a Republican has not won a Senate seat in NJ since the 1970s.

In his suit, Kim claims that NJ’s unorthodox ballot design for primaries gives preferential treatment to candidates who “happen to be endorsed by a faction of the party’s leadership.” The case goes on to claim the design choices of the ballot to be unconstitutional in that the makeup manipulates voters to check off a certain box. 

For context, NJ’s ballot structure is unlike anywhere else in the US. The ballot design allows parties to place their endorsed candidates in a section known as “the line” at the top of the ballot, while un-endorsed candidates appear in a section further down the ballot. 

Kim has a right to be angry about this; his opponent Tammy Murphy has a much larger collection of prominent Democratic endorsements, while Kim’s backing tends to remain on a lower level. However, Kim still has performed well despite this. 

In a letter to U.S. District Judge Zahid N. Quraishi, Platkin ran with Kim’s argument, agreeing that the structure is unconstitutional. One part of the letter states, “It is often impossible for unbracketed, non-pivot office candidates to secure an earlier position on the ballot compared to their bracketed competitors.” With AG Platkin deeming the ballot unconstitutional, it has yet to be determined if and when we will see changes to the NJ primary ballot structure. 

Neither Kim or Murphy’s office has responded, and some are starting to turn on the First Lady for her lack of acknowledgment on the clearly nefarious ballot design. Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop has been a strong supporter of Murphy this primary, endorsing her earlier this year. However, he has taken to social media to criticize Murphy for not commenting on the issue. On Monday, Fulop withdrew his endorsement of Tammy Murphy and publicly endorsed Andy Kim for Senate. This was a bold move by Fulop, who will run next year for Governor to succeed Phil Murphy. 

In any event, the official NJ Senate primary is June 4. In many ways, it will decide the next Senator of New Jersey. 

We want to know your pick for the NJ Senate race. Andy Kim or Tammy Murphy? 

About the Author/s

All posts

The New Jersey Digest is a new jersey magazine that has chronicled daily life in the Garden State for over 10 years.

Related Articles

Leave a Comment

Yes, I would like to receive emails from The Digest Online. Sign me up!

By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: New Jersey Digest. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact