The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ) filed an amicus brief in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey that argued New Jersey’s system for designing primary ballots violates voters’ constitutional rights. In its brief, the ACLU-NJ – a nonpartisan organization that does not endorse or oppose candidates for elected office – argued that the government must serve as a neutral referee in administering elections. New Jersey steps outside that role and is the only state in the country that distorts the democratic process through its primary "county line" ballot design procedures.

County clerks in New Jersey are empowered to design primary ballots that give substantial advantages to candidates who have won the endorsement of the county committees of political parties. Because voters express their political preferences by selecting candidates, the ACLU-NJ argues that county clerks violate the First Amendment rights of voters when they design the ballot to privilege the viewpoints of some voters to the detriment of other voters.

Additionally, the ACLU-NJ argued that the state's primary ballot design procedures undermine the right to vote. When the state influences voters’ choices through preferential ballot structure, it undercuts the freedom that lies at the heart of that right. It also takes power away from voters and puts it into the hands of the county committees, making candidates accountable to county party leaders instead of their constituents.

On March 29, 2024, the District Court granted the Motion for Preliminary Injunction. Intervenor the Camden County Democratic Committee appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. 

The ACLU-NJ submitted an amicus brief to the Third Circuit raising additional constitutional arguments under the First Amendment. Those arguments were acknowledged and credited in the unanimous, precedential Third Circuit opinion affirming the District Court's order granting the preliminary injunction.  

Date filed

March 12, 2024


United States District Court, District of New Jersey