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Judge rules against New Jersey primary ballot system that Rep. Andy Kim opposed

A federal judge Friday ruled against the New Jersey primary ballot system that Rep. Andy Kim has claimed gave party bosses unfair power to tip the scales in favor of their hand-picked candidates.

District Court Judge Zahid Quraishi ordered Garden State county clerks to use an impartial ballot design for the looming primaries including the June 4 Democratic battle to fill the seat now held by scandal-tarred U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez.

“Defendants are required to use a … randomized ballot order system in which each candidate for each office has an equal chance of obtaining the first ballot position,” Quraishi wrote in a brief temporary injunction.

The order bans for now the so-called “county line” system, which allows party leaders to group together their hand-picked candidates for all offices in the most prominent spot on the ballot, giving them a giant advantage over insurgent candidates.

Zahid Quraishi, nominated by U.S. President Joe Biden to be a U.S. District Judge for the District of New Jersey, is sworn in during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in 2021. (Tom Williams/Pool via AP)

Tom Williams/Pool via AP

Judge Zahid Quraishi is sworn in in Washington, DC in 2021. (Tom Williams/Pool via AP)

Quraishi’s ruling would have been a blockbuster decision boosting Kim’s primary campaign against First Lady Tammy Murphy, who won the backing of many Democratic bosses in the most populous counties covering Jersey cities like Newark, Camden and Jersey City.

But Tammy Murphy, a lifelong Republican who switched parties after marrying Gov. Phil Murphy, abruptly pulled the plug on her sputtering campaign last weekend, leaving Kim as the overwhelming favorite even before the judge’s ruling.

Kim now faces opposition from two little-known Democratic rivals. Given New Jersey’s deep-blue lean, Kim is likely to become the first Korean-American U.S. senator in history.

Menendez says he may run as an independent but he is facing a federal trial on bribery and fraud charges and is considered unlikely to play any significant role in the election.

It wasn’t immediately clear if New Jersey county clerks, many of whom are stalwarts of the state’s still-potent Democratic machine, will appeal Quraishi’s ruling or seek a delay until after the primary.

Regardless of his own race, Kim, a self-styled good government liberal, has vowed to pursue the case to outlaw the county line system in New Jersey, which is the only state that uses such a system.


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