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Andy Kim Sues to Block Preferential Treatment on Ballots in Senate Race

Representative Andy Kim, a Democrat running for Senate in New Jersey against the state’s first lady, filed a federal lawsuit on Monday that seeks to redesign the ballot before June’s contentious primary election, arguing the current layout unfairly benefits candidates supported by party leaders.

The complaint aims to topple New Jersey’s longstanding ballot-design process, which is unique to the state, by asserting it violates the constitution and permits voters to be “cynically manipulated.”

The legal maneuver is a direct attack on the governor’s wife, Tammy Murphy, who is Mr. Kim’s chief opponent in the Democratic primary and is likely to benefit most from the way ballots have traditionally been designed in 19 of the state’s 21 counties.

And it is certain to intensify public debate over the use of “the line,” the preferential ballot position that allows party leaders to bracket their preferred candidates for all races in a prominent column or row. Unendorsed candidates appear off to the side, in a nearby row or at the ballot’s edge, a location commonly referred to as “ballot Siberia.”

“New Jersey’s bracketing and ballot placement system skews New Jersey’s elections, providing a substantial, yet arbitrary advantage to bracketed candidates,” Mr. Kim’s lawyers said in the lawsuit.

He has asked a federal judge to require county clerks to instead group all candidates running for the same office together on the ballot.

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