State Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-Red Bank) broached the 2002 state Supreme Court decision that allowed U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg to replace the ethically-troubled incumbent Robert Torricelli on the ballot – despite passing the 48 day deadline.
“The statute speaks very clearly. There’s no leeway,” said Beck.
But Albin said that the case was not an anomaly. There was a precedent of over 50 years of courts liberally construing ballot deadlines liberally, he said.
“Since 1952, our courts have consistently indicated that the election law statues are directory, not mandatory when it comes to the strict deadlines. That we should not read the statutes to defeat voter choice, voter participation, or having candidates placed on the ballot,” he said.
Even those arguing against the ballot replacement – who were led state Sen. Bill Baroni (R-Hamilton), at the time not a legislator – still argued for an exception in the case of death or disability, Albin said.
“Yes, Justice, but he wasn’t dead or disabled,” Beck responded.
But Albin said there was a half-century string of unbroken precedent, and the legislature never tried to assert that the law should be interpreted more strictly. Although its language is clear, the statute does not provide for an exception, even in the case of death or disability – something that no legislators have argued against.
“The statute doesn’t make any exception,” he said.
Following Beck's testimony, state Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R-Demarest) said that Albin's answer was at odds with his prior testimony about abiding by clear language in statues.
"The statute could not have been more clearly worded," he said.