May 22, 2024

2024 Primary: Early Voting Next Week, New Block Ballot Design for Democrats

By Donald Gilpin

As Princeton voters go to the polls for the 2024 primary elections — in only one week for the first day of early voting on May 29 (through June 2), and in less than two weeks for Election Day voting on Tuesday, June 4 — Democrats and Republicans will vote for candidates to represent their parties in the November election for president, as well as candidates for U.S Senate and for the House of Representatives in New Jersey’s 12th District. They will also select candidates in races for three Mercer County Commissioners, Princeton mayor and two Council members, and two County Committee members.

The two spotlighted races include the competition for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Robert Menendez, who is not running, with Andy Kim, Lawrence Hamm, and Patricia Campos-Medina on the Democratic ballot and Curtis Bashaw, James Murphy, Albert Harshaw, and Christine Serrano Glassner on the Republican ballot; and the race for a seat in the U.S. Congress, with Princeton resident Daniel Dart challenging incumbent Bonnie Watson Coleman for the Democratic nomination, and Republicans Theodore E. Jones Jr. and Darius Mayfield competing for their party’s nomination.

Princeton Mayor Mark Freda faces no competition in his reelection bid for the Democratic nomination, and no Republicans have filed to compete in the November mayoral race. Council incumbent Leighton Newlin and new Council candidate Brian McDonald are also running unopposed in seeking spots on the November ballot, and no Republicans have filed for the Princeton Council nomination.

Other candidates on the Democratic primary ballot include incumbent Mercer County Commissioners Kristin L. McLaughlin, Terrance Stokes, and Samuel Frisby running uncontested for three spots on the ballot; Jason Mangone and Felicia A. Spitz running for two positions on the Democratic County Committee; and Joseph R. Biden Jr and Terrisa Bukovinac running for the Democratic presidential nomination.

On the Republican primary ballot Donald J. Trump is unopposed for the presidential nomination; Andrew Curcio, Pedro Reyes, and Denise “Neicy” Turner are unopposed as county commissioner nominees; and Christine O’Shaughnessy is unopposed as one of two potential Republican nominees on the County Committee.

Mercer County Clerk Paula Sollami Covello reports that sample ballots are being mailed out this week and will also be available on the County Clerk website at

In a May 20 phone conversation, she advised all voters to read their sample ballots carefully. Note your polling location, which might have changed, she emphasized, and if you’re a Democrat be prepared for a new, quite different ballot format.

Covello commented on the new block ballot design recently adopted by Democrats in accordance with a federal court order in response to a lawsuit filed by U.S. Senate candidate Kim. The block ballot format replaces, at least for now (pending court challenges), the “line” format previously used in Mercer County and elsewhere in the state. The ruling does not apply to candidates on the Republican primary ballot, which remains in traditional line format.

To determine placements on the Democratic primary ballots, candidate names were drawn randomly by Covello and county clerks in every other New Jersey county. To identify candidates endorsed by the Mercer County Democratic Committee, voters must look for the slogan “Regular Democratic Organization” on the ballot above the candidate’s name.

“I don’t think people realize how big of a change this is,” Covello said. “People are used to voting down the line. ‘Oh, you’re a Democrat,’ people say to me. ‘I must have voted for you because I vote straight down the line.’ But now you have to know who you’re voting for. You need to read your ballot much more carefully because the endorsed candidate, if you’re looking for that person, might not be the top person on the list.”

In a recent Princeton Perspectives article, Covello noted, “With a highly competitive presidential election in front of us this November, we enter uncharted territory when it comes to ballot design. For, it is not known if the new ballot design is going to be used for only the primary election of 2024, or if these undecided cases will ultimately impact the design of the general election ballot as well.”

In any case, Covello emphasized, “It’s important that all registered voters vote, either by mail or in person on June 4 Election Day at your designated polling location or early at one of seven early voting locations — including the Princeton Municipal Building at 400 Witherspoon Street — throughout Mercer County.”

Early voting, May 29 to June 2, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, allows voters to avoid potential crowds and accommodate busy schedules, a clerk’s office flier points out.

“It’s so important that people exercise their right to vote,” said Covello, “because we have seen so many races where candidates are winning by narrow margins. In Princeton we’ve had one-vote School Board races. Leadership makes a difference, and you want to make sure that you express your voice about who leads.”