Regarding independent Assembly candidate Gary Stein's lawsuit seeking to change the New Jersey ballot:
I have lived and voted in New Jersey all my life, and I was not aware that other states design their ballots differently than New Jersey. Recent stories have dealt with the ability of local political clubs to influence elections through ballot placement and slogans. I was a member of one of these clubs, and I saw how they used this power.
Local political clubs use line placement, or bracketing, in order to place the candidates of their choice in an optimum position, usually first, on the ballot. All club-endorsed candidates are also grouped together in a line. This makes it easy to instruct people to vote the entire line. This marginalizes other candidates by separating them from the party line.
A fairer ballot design would be to use separate boxes denoting each office, with each box containing the names of all the candidates seeking that office. No slogans or biased phrases, other than party affiliation, would be allowed.
There are numerous examples of the power of ballot placement. The most recent and glaring example was in the June Republican primary to select a candidate for Atlantic County freeholder. Two-time incumbent Joe McDevitt was defeated by relatively unknown newcomer and recently turned Republican William Pauls. Pauls, who received the Atlantic County Republican Party endorsement, was placed in column A with all of the other endorsed candidates, while McDevitt was placed far away in column D. Pauls won by more than a 2-to-1 margin. It has been demonstrated that those running "on the line" out poll others by large numbers.
The current New Jersey ballot design is disingenuous and misleading to voters. It is designed for election control by local political clubs and parties, especially in primary elections, and not for the good of the public.
DOUGLAS H. STROZ
Egg Harbor Township