In this episode of Wine, Women, and Revolution, Susan Druckenbrod and friend of the show Helen Duda join Heather on the phone. They talk about the unfair and undemocratic election systems in New Jersey and the impact of ballot lines.
Ballot Lines Suck
At first, Susan talks about party ballot lines. Party lines are designed to make things more difficult. The rules are unknown and confusing. Insiders set regulations to prevent outsiders from being able to have fair access. The party chairs in each county choose who gets the party line. If you aren’t one of the anointed few, then voters may never see you at the end of the ballot.
Then, Helen talks about the emotional manipulation of party lines. Formerly, she was a party line voter. She made a mistake, and believed the party had her best interest at heart. She wanted to be loyal. Eventually, Helen learned how wrong she was. Monied power elites are choosing these candidates. The party line manipulates voters into unquestioningly supporting these hand chosen candidates.
A Different System
In spite of the challenges, things don’t have to be this way. The county clerk can change the ballot line structure. Each county has completely different ballots already. Further, we could change regulations about independent voters. Currently, independent voters can’t vote in primary elections. The laws force them to declare a party. Many voters are not comfortable supporting either party. Helen believes voter education is key to making change. We need to educate members of both duopoly parties about party line manipulation. The county chair controls everything. Voters have little power.
To illustrate manipulation, Susan introduces the concept of “phantom freeholders”. These freeholder candidates muddy the waters and overcrowd the field. In truth, they don’t run active campaigns and have no intent to be freeholder. In fact, the candidates may not even know their name appears on the ballot. As a result, legitimate candidates appear at end of the ballot. This is known as Ballot Siberia. Susan speculates the county employs these candidates to manipulate the ballot line.