Groups opposed to special election date present petition

TRENTON – A petition with more than 6,000 signatures protesting the October special election for U.S. Senate was delivered to the governor’s office on Tuesday.

Two organizations, N.J. Working Families Alliance and N.J. Citizen Action, delivered the petition that seeks to have the special election moved from Oct. 16  to Nov. 5, the general election date.

The issue is before the state Supreme Court.  Opponents of the governor’s decision have cited the cost and the risk of voter suppression.

But a lower court has already upheld the decision by Gov. Chris Christie to hold a special election as soon as possible in order to ensure voters have an elected representative in Congress.

Christie has appointed Attorney General Jeff Chiesa to fill the seat temporarily.  He will not seek the seat full time.  Four Democrats and two Republicans have filed to run in the primary.

In a statement, the head of Citizen Action, Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, said that “Our members and the public at large believe that holding an election on a Wednesday in October, less than three weeks before the regular election on Nov. 5, 2013, is wasteful and politically self-serving on the part of the governor.”

The opponents claim Christie merely wants to avoid having a potentially strong Democratic senatorial candidate on the general election ticket driving voters to the polls in a race in which he presently leads challenger Sen. Barbara Buono by a wide margin.

But the court declared Christie was right to schedule a special election in this case, in which incumbent U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg died one day before the primary election.

In reaction last week to that ruling, Michael Drewniak, spokesman for the governor, said that “Governor Christie followed the law as established by the Legislature and ensured New Jersey voters would have a voice and a choice – in both a primary and general election – in selecting the next U.S. Senator for New Jersey. That’s what the law provides and the way it should be.”

However, the organizations behind this petition expressed fears that having two elections so close together will depress turnout. Both organizations are part of the legal fight in the Supreme Court.

Bills that would address the issue moved through committees Monday. One bill would move the general election to the special election date, while another would mandate that an appointee to a vacated seat would have to come from the same party as the person being replaced.

Groups opposed to special election date present petition