Bill Would Allow Candidates Enough Time to Consider District Boundary Changes Before Filing Intent to Run in Primary
TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Ronald L. Rice which would extend the deadline for filing nominating petitions each year that new legislative districts are drawn was approved by the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee by a vote of 3-1.
“This bill is about fairness to the candidates running in a primary, so that they have enough time to consider district boundary changes and to put together a slate to run during a redistricting year,” said Senator Rice, D-Essex. “Because the primary schedule is shortened during redistricting, candidates running off the line are put at a disadvantage, and if they don’t have a slate to run against the party line, they’re essentially buried on the ballot. This bill ensures that all candidates – Democratic and Republican – have a shot, whether you’re supported by your county party organization or not.”
The bill, S-2653, would provide that, in each year in which new legislative districts are drawn, petitions for the primary election are to be filed before 4:00 p.m. of the 50th day preceding the election. This year, the primary date is June 7, 2011, which means that under Senator Rice’s bill, the filing deadline would be April 18.
According to Senator Rice, the bill would apply to candidates for legislative office, as well as every candidate running in the party primary for any elected office, so that the legislative candidates have enough time to put together a slate of candidates to file for an off-the-line challenge. The bill would also revise any other deadlines and dates associated with the primary election accordingly, and would require the Secretary of State to undertake any steps deemed necessary to notify candidates, election officials and the general public about those changes.
“This bill sends the message that although it might be tough to beat the political machine in the Garden State, it shouldn’t be impossible,” said Senator Rice. “We need to give every candidate a fair opportunity to have their voices and issues be heard, and not get drowned out at the bottom of the ballot because they didn’t have enough time to put together nominating petitions or a team of running mates. This bill would go a long way to making sure that the best candidates are heard, and given a fair chance to compete.”
The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.