Bill to extend election petition deadline in redistricting years moves from committee

TRENTON – State Sen. Ron Rice Sr. (D-28), of Newark, spoke on his bill, S2653, before the State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee Thursday.

His bill extends the deadline for filing election nominating petitions each year that new legislative districts are established by redistricting.

“I kinda say and do what I think is right,” Rice said, which sometimes “causes me problems politically.”

After having been through three redistricting processes, “I’ve been off my party line three times,” Rice said. “I just happen to beat my party.”

The bill extends the nominating petition deadline to 50 days before the primary election, and allows the Secretary of State to make adjustments as necessary.

He said filing deadlines were the excuse for his party to oust him from the ticket, and he doesn’t want that excuse to exist in the future for other candidates who aren’t the apple of the local party’s eye, but deserve a place on the party ticket.

“I was blessed, and I’m back to irritate everybody for ten years,” Rice said, but the next candidate might not be that lucky.

Assemblyman Gary Schaer, (D-35), of Passaic, is carrying a companion bill in the Assembly, and Rice hopes the measures can be “fast-tracked” to beat the ticking clock of apportionment.

State Sen. Dawn Marie Addiego, (R-8), of Evesham, asked Rice, “Is there any reason to believe that this year there’s going to be a problem?”

“We know we gonna be in court at least one time,” Rice said, with one of the two parties more than likely to appeal the final decision.

The Black Caucus, which Rice chairs, is “getting ready to challenge everybody,” he said, if the minority populations are harmed in the  process.

“Is it necessary that we do it now?” Addiego asked.

Whelan said this is the last scheduled meeting for the committee until the budget break, and Rice added, “It needs to be in place…Ten years from now there could be a problem.”

A map is expected by April 4, state Sen. Robert Gordon, (D-38), of Fair Lawn, noted, and the current petition filing deadline is April 11.

Giving the Legislature a chance to “catch our breath and make a decision about what we want to do,” Gordon said, is logical.

Putting the nail in the discussion, state Sen. Shirley Turner, (D-15), of Lawrenceville, said, “It’s better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.”

“Well said,” chairman Jim Whelan, (D-2), of Atlantic City, agreed, and the measure moved in a 3-1 vote.

State Sen. Steven Oroho, (R-24), of Franklin Twp., testifying on the next agenda bill, remarked to Rice, “If the good lord is your campaign manager, you’re probably in good shape anyway.”

Bill to extend election petition deadline in redistricting years moves from committee