Federal Court Complaint

Opening New Jersey’s Closed Primary

Taxpayers fund primary elections, not political parties.

So why can't a voter participate unless they join a political party?

That's what the Independent Voter Project is asking the courts.

In March of 2014, a coalition led by the Independent Voter Project (IVP) including IndependentVoting.org and 7 individual plaintiffs, filed a complaint in federal court arguing that the current closed primary election process in New Jersey gives political parties and their members a decided advantage in the election process at the expense of individual voters, including the 47 percent who choose not to affiliate with either major political party.

In July of 2015, the coalition of Plaintiffs appealed a decision from the Third Circuit Court of Appeal which held that, "[t]he Appellants identify no other precedent even arguably suggesting that voters have a constitutional right to unqualified participation in primary elections." In making this argument, the Third Circuit held that voters must join a qualified political party to participate in the primary election, even when: (1) the primary election is an integral stage of the public election process, (2) the state funds and administers the primary election, and (3) the primary election is the only competitive stage of the election.

Most simply, this ruling cannot stand. No voter should be required to join a private political organization as a condition of participating at a critical stage of our public election process.

“The natural consequence of New Jersey’s election process is [...] the institutionalization of minority rule,” the coalition argued in their writ to the United States Supreme Court. “Indeed, the interests of the Republican and Democratic political parties are so embedded in the State’s establishment that the State of New Jersey finds itself here today defending a system that overtly and unnecessarily protects the private rights of two political organizations at the expense of the voting rights of its own citizens.”

The Supreme Court chose not to hear the case at this time. But the issue is on the table. Should you have to join a party to vote?

The Independent Voter Project filed a case in July 2019 against the California Secretary of State to ask this question. Learn more HERE.

Get the latest updates on our legal strategy and the movement for nonpartisan election reform on our news website, IVN.us.