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Senator Turner

Bill will save taxpayer money and increase voter participation by consolidating elections

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner that would reduce the fiscal impact on taxpayers by merging future special elections with regularly scheduled general elections was approved today by the Senate State Government Wagering and Tourism Committee.

“The state has already wasted too much taxpayer money on unnecessary elections,” said Senator Turner. “The last special election held in New Jersey cost $12 million; we couldn’t afford it then and there is no reason that we should ask taxpayers to foot the bill for a special election in the future.”

The bill, S-1737, will address a provision in New Jersey law that allows the governor to call a special primary election and special general election in order to fill a vacancy in the office for the remainder of the term. Special elections are held on days other than days of regularly scheduled elections.

The bill would require the governor to make a temporary appointment to fill a vacancy in the office of the United States Senate within 30 days of the occurrence of the vacancy. It would provide that the temporary appointee be a member of the same political party as the person vacating the office and require the individual to have been affiliated with that party continuously for a period of four consecutive years immediately prior to the appointment.

The bill lays out certain procedures for filling vacancies, but repeals the authority of the governor to call a special election to fill a vacancy in the Senate or the House. Under the bill, congressional vacancies would be filled only on a general election day or, in the case of Senate vacancies, temporarily by gubernatorial appointment. In comparison to the Senate, the House of Representatives would follow a similar process, however, the Governor would not make a temporary appointment.

The legislation was first introduced after Governor Christie chose to call for a special election on October 16, 2013 to fill the seat of U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg and appoint Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa to fill the vacancy until a successor was elected in the special election.

“Voter turnout for special elections is significantly low,” said Senator Turner. “Merging the election with a general election that draws more voters gives voice to a larger portion of the electorate. Whereas, holding elections on an off day is a form of voter suppression. We want to save taxpayer money. We also want to increase voter participation to have a healthy democracy.”

The bill cleared the committee 4-0 and will now head to the full Senate

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