A judge yesterday turned down independent candidate for governor Chris Daggett's legal attempt to randomly shuffle the placement of candidates' names on ballots this November.
Daggett filed the lawsuit Friday in Morris County Superior Court, challenging the state's rules to determine where a candidate's name is placed on a ballot. He argued that the system favored Republicans and Democrats at the expense of all other candidates.
"This is just another example of how Republicans and Democrats have conspired to thwart the democratic process in New Jersey," Daggett said. "They do not want to open up the electoral process because it would jeopardize their hold on power and continue their two-party stranglehold on government."
But the order of candidate names on the state election ballots Nov. 3 is likely to remain unchanged: Superior Court Judge B. Theodore Bozonelis decided in a scheduling conference yesterday not to expedite the case, said Stephen Cuyler, the lawyer who filed the suit and a longtime friend of Daggett's.
Under state law, the first two columns on a ballot are effectively reserved for Democrats and Republicans, with county clerks randomly selecting the order, according to Susan Evans, a Department of State spokeswoman. After that, the order of any other candidates also is determined randomly.
Daggett asked a judge to declare that New Jersey's law violates the state and national constitutions. Besides asking that the order of names be chosen randomly, he asked that they be rotated from one voting precinct to the next to avoid favoring any particular candidate.
The independent candidate had hoped to persuade the judge to take action that would change the ballots before this fall's election.
Daggett campaign spokesman Tom Johnson said the campaign was disappointed by the judge's decision.
Cuyler said other states had recognized the significance of name order on a ballot.
"There are 12 states that currently have statutes that mandate that ballot order be selected randomly - that the ballot order be rotated from precinct to precinct - so each candidate has a chance to be at the top of the list," Cuyler said.