Carton, Lora and Seidman.
In the June 1971 primary election plaintiffs James A. Quaremba and James W. Ralph unsuccessfully sought nomination as the Republican candidates for the office of state senator for the Thirteenth Senatorial District, and plaintiff Trifonio Rizzo was an unsuccessful candidate for nomination by the Republican party for the office of freeholder in Bergen County.
They thereafter filed a complaint for a declaratory judgment that N.J.S.A. 19:23-24 requires "the listing of all candidates for nomination or election to any given office in the primary election of a political party in a single column or row determined by drawing," and that the county clerk should be directed to set up the form of the June 1972 primary ballot accordingly. On March 30, 1972, the return day of an order to show cause which they obtained, final
judgment was entered in favor of defendant, the Bergen County Clerk. Plaintiffs appealed. The Appellate Division affirmed in an unreported opinion. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment and remanded the cause to the Law Division as an action for declaratory judgment.
The trial was held and judgment was again entered in favor of defendant, whereupon this appeal was filed.
Plaintiffs challenge the constitutionality of N.J.S.A. 19:49-2. They contend that their names should have been placed in the same column or line with other candidates for the same office, their respective positions to be determined by lot, but were assigned, instead, a separate column or line alongside the others. It is noted that the assignment or columns was by lot.
The principal thrust of their argument is that N.J.S.A. 19:49-2 arbitrarily favors primary candidates who file a joint petition with the county clerk, and those affiliated with them, and denies all others the drawing and placement rights prescribed by N.J.S.A. 19:23-24. Their complaint is that they are disadvantaged by not being in the same line or column as the "organization" candidates or "party regulars." They assert that there is no rational basis or compelling state interest for what they conceive to be discrimination against unaffiliated candidates which violates the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution.
We are of the view that plaintiffs' contention that they have been unconstitutionally deprived of the equal protection of the laws is unfounded.
Procedures for arranging the positions of candidates on primary ballots are contained in N.J.S.A. 19:23-24 and N.J.S.A. 19:49-2. Under the former, the position of candidates for a given office is determined by a drawing of names by the county clerk or municipal clerk, or his deputy, depending upon where the nominating petition is filed, provided that several candidates for an office (where more than one person is to be elected to that office) may request the bracketing of their names (N.J.S.A. 19:23-18), in
which case the bracketed names are treated as one. Thus, under this procedure, all candidates for an office would be in the same column, with their respective positions established by a random drawing.
However, in counties where voting machines are used, N.J.S.A. 19:49-2 is applicable. It permits all candidates whose nominating petitions are required to be filed with the county clerk and who choose the same designation or slogan to file a joint petition. In such case they are entitled to have their names placed on the same line of the voting machine and, where a drawing is required, to be drawn for position on the ballot as a unit. In addition, candidates whose petitions are required to be filed with the municipal clerk or with the Secretary of State may ...