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Letter to NJ Division of Elections Director Donna Barber

Dear Director Barber,

Thank you for your response to our email and letter dated April 6th, on a Saturday no less, in which you confirmed the certification of our delegates in all 21 counties. However, we have serious concerns with your statement: “…That the ballot design and ballot draws are statutorily within the sole discretion and authority of the County Clerks.” We understand that the county clerks have discretion, but that discretion must be exercised within the parameters set forth in statute. Specifically, in your letter you cite N.J.S.A. 19:23-24 and 19:49-2 as applicable to ballot drawings and ballot design. We agree, but believe that these statutes clearly lay out the procedure for ballot drawings and reasonable ballot design that some county clerks did not follow with respect to the presidential race in the Democratic Party.

On April 5th, we emailed all the clerks to find out the results of the April 4th ballot draw and find out where our delegates will appear on the ballot. We have only heard back from 7 of the 21 counties and only learned, via an NJ Spotlight story that aired last night, that the Bergen County Clerk, John Hogan, who did not include our delegates in the draw, does not intend to redo the draw. He also expressed in the article that he feels “not satisfied with the direction [he’s] getting from the state.”

Please help Mr. Hogan by communicating that Uncommitted district delegates for President are to be drawn with individual candidates for President, who are drawn with their associated district delegates.

Hunterdon County included our delegates in their ballot drawing for President and we drew first.

It is our contention that many counties have not followed their statutory requirements and did not include our delegates in the draw. We understand there is a first time for everything and we promise to be patient without allowing our slate to be treated differently in violation of the statute. N.J.S.A. 19:23-24 requires all choices for President, from candidates for the nomination for the primary election and general election to “district delegates to conventions of political parties” be drawn via ballot drawing in a process carefully described as having been “written upon cards (one name on a card)…“ It then details where petitions have designated that certain candidates be bracketed, as is in the case with our slate of delegates, that “(each bracket to be treated as a single name)…“. N.J.S.A. 19:49-2 then goes on to confirm that “…all candidates who shall file a joint petition with the county clerk of their respective county and who shall choose the same designation or slogan shall be drawn for position on the ballot as a unit…“ Read together, these two statutes mean that each card for the Presidential race must include the candidate with their delegates, if any; which, in our case means, Uncommitted, with the names of the delegates listed below. There is no language in these statutes that permit the clerk to omit from the draw Democratic Party choices for Presidential delegates simply because there was no “candidate” associated with those delegates.

As for the ballot design, it’s clear in N.J.S.A. 19:49-2 that the font used be “as large as space will reasonably permit…“ and that clerks have discretion only with respect to “… the order of the precedence and arrangement of parties and of candidates.” However, we do not believe that the clerks have the authority to exercise that discretion unequally; meaning, the statute does not support any clerk treating candidates differently with respect to font size and the presentation of information.

See Figure 1: Example for Uncommitted Delegates shared with our campaign from the Bergen County Clerk’s Election Division, and later aired in the NJ Spotlight segment.

Bergen County president column. It says Choice for President" with three
options, Terrisa Bukovinac: 1A. Joeseph R. Biden Jr: 1B. and Uncommitted,
Justice for Palestine Permanent Ceasefire Now at the bottom without a column
number. The Uncommitted candidate selection is a tiny font compared to Bukovinac
and Biden.

Not only were our delegates not in the draw for “Choice for President” but our choice “Uncommitted” is not the same font size as Bukovinac and Biden, Jr. and the caption “For 20th District Delegates to the Democratic National Convention” is also missing from our choice. This is discriminatory and arbitrary, and seems to be the result of Mr. Hogan’s erroneous decision to not include the Uncommitted delegates in the draw for President in the first place.

We are concerned these rules are not being followed uniformly throughout the state. Accordingly, we are providing you with a list of the counties that we believe have omitted us from the ballot drawing, and certainly have yet to publish our ballot position at all.

See Figure 2: Hudson County Dems Instagram Post. In the case of Hudson County, we were omitted from the drawing and later found out from a since deleted Instagram image that we were placed third. We do, however, see there is consistent ballot design among all the choices for President.

Image of Hudson County Dems on Instagram. The Hudson County Democratic
Organization Chair Anthony Vainieri, a short white man with a receding hairline
is wearing a suit and holding a large white poster which is the ballot mock-up
for Hudson County, with a finger pointing at a candidate. A Red Arrow is
pointing to Uncommitted.

As members of the Democratic Party, we believe that the lack of uniformity delineated above, and the failure of county clerks to communicate with certified Presidential delegates needs your intervention.

We also believe that the Secretary of State and/or the Division of Elections have the authority and responsibility to investigate the situation, inform the counties they must have a drawing with Uncommitted delegates, and not discriminate among choices for President with respect to font size and presentation of the same information.

Here’s where we’ve been omitted from ballot drawings with the two other Choices for President:

Omitted Included
Bergen County Cape May County
Burlington County Hunterdon County
Camden County Ocean County
Cumberland County  
Essex County  
Gloucester County  
Hudson County  
Mercer County  
Middlesex County  
Morris County  
Passaic County  
Salem County  
Somerset County  
Sussex County  
Union County  
Warren County  


Suraj Patel, Isaac Jimenez, Fatima Mughal
Committee on Vacancies - Uncommitted NJ

CC: Governor Murphy
Lt. Gov, Secretary of State, Tahesha Way
Matthew Platkin, Attorney General

Statutes Cited:

  1. N.J.S.A. 19:23-24. “The position which the candidates and bracketed groups of names of candidates for the primary… shall have upon the ballots used for the primary election…, in the case of candidates for nomination for.. choice for President, delegates and alternates-at-large to the national conventions of political parties, district delegates and alternates to conventions of political parties,… which are to be voted for by the voters … shall be determined by the county clerks in their respective counties; and, excepting in counties where R.S.19:49-2 applies, the position on the ballot used for the primary election…in the following manner:…The county clerk, or the county clerk’s deputy…shall at the clerk’s office on the 61st day prior to the primary election for the general election at three o’clock in the afternoon draw from the box, as hereinafter described, each card separately without knowledge on the clerk’s part as to which card the clerk is drawing. Any legal voter of the county or municipality, as the case may be, shall have the privilege of witnessing such drawing. The person making the drawing shall make public announcement at the drawing of each name, the order in which same is drawn, and the office for which the drawing is made. When there is to be but one person nominated for the office, the names of the several candidates who have filed petitions for such office shall be written upon cards (one name on a card) of the same size, substance and thickness. The cards shall be deposited in a box with an aperture in the cover of sufficient size to admit a man’s hand. The box shall be well shaken and turned over to thoroughly mix the cards, and the cards shall then be withdrawn one at a time. The first name drawn shall have first place, the second name drawn, second place, and so on; the order of the withdrawal of the cards from the box determining the order of arrangement in which the names shall appear upon the primary election ballot. Where there is more than one person to be nominated to an office where petitions have designated that certain candidates shall be bracketed, the position of such bracketed names on the ballot (each bracket to be treated as a single name), together with individuals who have filed petitions for nomination for such office, shall be determined as above described. Where there is more than one person to be nominated for an office and there are more candidates who have filed petitions than there are persons to be nominated, the order of the printing of such names upon the primary election ballots shall be determined as above described.”

  2. N.J.S.A. 19:49-2. “All official ballots shall be in black ink in type as large as space will reasonably permit…For the primary election for the general election in all counties where voting machines are or shall be used, all candidates who shall file a joint petition with the county clerk of their respective county and who shall choose the same designation or slogan shall be drawn for position on the ballot as a unit”