New Jersey has a very old election law which could deprive the Republican Party of its own party column in the October 16, 2013 special U.S. Senate election. Section 19:15-1 says “No political party which fails to poll at any primary election for a general election at least 10% of the votes cast in the State for members of the General Assembly at the next preceding general election shall be entitled to have a party column on the official ballot at the general election for which the primary election has been held.”
In other words, even if a party is ballot-qualified and meets the state’s definition of “party”, it still isn’t automatically qualified for its own party column on the general election, if its primary turnout is quite low.
At the primary election for U.S. Senate election on August 13, 2013, the number of votes cast in the Republican Party primary was only 130,340 votes, which is far less than 10% of the vote cast for General Assembly at the 2011 election. Ten percent of the November 2011 vote is 259,775.
One of the independent candidates in the U.S. Senate election, Eugene LaVergne, filed a lawsuit on September 13, asking that the law be enforced and that the October 16, 2013 general election ballots place the Republican nominee, Steve Lonegan, in the same column in which all the independent candidates are listed. Normal New Jersey ballots in almost all counties have party columns, one headed “Democratic”, one headed “Republican” and one headed “By Petition.” The definition of “political party” in New Jersey is so stringent, no parties other than the Democratic and Republican Parties have been ballot-qualified since before 1920. The case is LaVergne v Lonegan, Mercer County L-1933-13.
However, the lawsuit will probably run up against the problem that the law defines “general election” to be “the annual election to be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.” Therefore, the special election for U.S. Senate would seem not to be a “general election.” The lawsuit will be heard on Friday, October 4, at 2 p.m. in Trenton.