NJ-Governor: Will Ballot Design Hurt Chris Daggett?

I've talked up independent Chris Daggett's relevance in the New Jersey governor's race, as a spoiler if nothing else. PolitickerNJ takes a ...
by | August 21, 2009
 

I've talked up independent Chris Daggett's relevance in the New Jersey governor's race, as a spoiler if nothing else. PolitickerNJ takes a longer look at him and offers some more clarity on his ideological niche: He's fiscally conservative and socially liberal, favoring gay marriage and abortion rights.

As an independent running in New Jersey this year, that sounds like a perfect fit. New Jersey generally is socially liberal state, but voters seem worried about high property taxes and the condition of the state budget. Daggett has limited financial resources and virtually no name recognition, but his big advantage is being where a lot of New Jersey voters are on the issues. He also has a fairly impressive resume.

Richard Winger, however, throws some cold water on the Daggett story, suggesting that ballot design will cripple the independent's campaign:

By contrast, almost all New Jersey counties use a party-column ballot, in which the Democratic column is headed "Democratic" in big letters; ditto for the Republicans; and all other candidates are listed in a column headed "By petition" on the right-hand side of the ballot. Thus, there is no easy way for a voter to visually scan all the candidates for any particular office. Instead, the eye of an ordinary voter is only drawn to the part of the ballot reserved for Republican and Democratic columns. This is partly why no candidate for Governor of New Jersey, other than a Democrat or a Republican, has polled as much as 5% since 1913. New Jersey is the only state that gives party column headings to the qualified parties but no one else, but the New Jersey press seems completely oblivious of this.

I love a story about the peculiarities of election rules more than most. Still, I'm not convinced that this will hurt Daggett all that much.

The governor's race is, by far, the most prominent election on the New Jersey ballot this fall. The reason most people will vote at all in the state is because of a preference for governor. If voters go into the booth planning to vote for Daggett, I suspect they'll make sure to find him on the ballot.

--Josh Goodman

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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