Rep. Rob Andrews loses ballot challenge

May 1, 2008 5:25:47 PM PDT
The state's highest court will not get involved in a dispute over where the names of the Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate appear on the primary election ballot. The Supreme Court denied a request Thursday that had been filed by the Democratic State Committee. It asked the court to reconsider an appellate ruling forcing 11 New Jersey counties to redraw ballot positions for the Democrats entered in the primary.

The Appellate Court decision requires the three Democrats running for U.S. Senate in New Jersey to get an equal chance at top billing on ballots in all 21 counties.

U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews of Camden County challenged ballot makeup in the counties, saying the system created an unfair advantage for incumbent Sen. Frank Lautenberg.

County clerks in New Jersey enjoy latitude in constructing ballots. They typically award the top ballot position to the highest office seeker who is bundled or bracketed with candidates for local offices.

That system favored Lautenberg, who has the endorsement of New Jersey's Democratic Party establishment. The four-term senator from Bergen County is bracketed with others in 12 counties, compared with Andrews, who is bracketed in seven counties, said Democratic State Committee lawyer William Northgrave.

The Democratic State Committee argued unsuccessfully that redoing the ballots would result in voter confusion.

Andrews wanted all the candidates on the same line, with each of them getting a chance at occupying the perceived top spot.

Morristown Mayor Donald Cresitello is also running.

"The Supreme Court obviously decided the 'equality of treatment' standard prevailed over the 'partisan endorsement' standard," said Andrews' lawyer, William Tambussi.

The winner of the June 3 primary will face the winner of the Republican contest, which features former Rep. Dick Zimmer, state Sen. Joe Pennacchio and college professor Murray Sabrin.