Press Release

Asian American organizations tell court, New Jersey’s ballot design hurts our communities

Image for Asian American organizations tell court, New Jersey’s ballot design hurts our communities
Example of the current ballot design. The New Jersey Atlantic County 2020 Democratic primary ballot shows candidates endorsed by the county party all under column A, with other candidates running for the same seat further to the right. Credit: Julia Sass Rubin

AALDEF, Advancing Justice-AAJC, and AAPI New Jersey file an amicus brief in Kim v. Hanlon

NEWARK, NJ — Today, three Asian American organizations filed an amicus brief in Kim v. Hanlon, a suit brought by Rep. Andy Kim, a candidate for U.S. Senate, and two congressional candidates against all but two county clerks in New Jersey. The suit alleges that the column style ballot designs used by these counties unconstitutionally privilege candidates endorsed by county party leadership by granting them the advantageous “county line” and preferential ballot placement, while arbitrarily scattering non-endorsed candidates across the ballot. The amicus brief filed by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC (Advancing Justice-AAJC), and AAPI New Jersey argues that the challenged ballot designs exacerbate voting barriers for Asian Americans, especially those with limited English proficiency and naturalized first-time voters, and force Asian Americans, and all candidates of color, to run on an unequal playing field, reinforcing a pattern of underrepresentation in the state.

"New Jersey's ballot design is one of our country's most pernicious forms of voter suppression, harmful to Asian Americans of all political backgrounds,” said Amber Reed, President of AAPI New Jersey. “Since 2022, we've heard from our community about how the county line creates nearly insurmountable barriers for Asian American candidates, keeping us severely underrepresented in the State Legislature and other elected offices despite our growing numbers. The line also makes voting more confusing for limited English proficient Asian American voters and those who assist them. New Jersey deserves fair, democratic ballots. We are grateful to partner with national leaders AALDEF and Advancing Justice-AAJC to file this important brief on behalf of our community."

“The county line is a patently undemocratic mechanism that empowers predominantly white-male-run county party leadership at the cost of Asian American, and other minority, residents of New Jersey,” said Ronak Patel, Legal Fellow at AALDEF. “The county line and the underlying challenged ballot designs must be ruled unconstitutional to ensure New Jersey’s democracy is open to all its residents.”

“New Jersey is behind the curve when it comes to diversity in politics,” said Noah Baron, Assistant Director of Litigation at Advancing Justice-AAJC. “Though around 11% of New Jersey residents are Asian American, only 3% of elected officials in the state identify as Asian American. The current ballot design reinforces existing underrepresentation of racial minorities by giving preferential treatment to certain candidates and incumbents, often white politicians, while deterring many others from running at all. No system should be allowed to make voting harder for limited English proficiency and first-time naturalized voters, many of whom are Asian American New Jerseyans. Residents of New Jersey deserve a system that works for everyone, not just those with ready access to the levers of power.”

View the full brief here.


For additional information, contact:

Stuart J. Sia
Communications Director
212.966.5932 x203