Senator Shirley K. Turner (D-15) said today that she has requested a vote on her legislation, S2857, to eliminate the option of a special election to fill vacancies in the United States Senate.
“The exorbitant $24+ million cost to taxpayers and historic low voter turnout — 24 percent on October 16th and 9 percent on August 13th — are proof positive that special elections are a boondoggle that must be eliminated,” said Turner, whose bill was released by the Senate State Government Committee on June 17.
“We need to continue on the path of consolidating elections to save taxpayers the costs of unnecessary elections, increase voter participation, and reduce voter fatigue,” she added
Turner introduced her bill in June after Governor Chris Christie announced a temporary appointment and two special elections that would cost taxpayers more than $24 million to fill the seat left vacant after the death of Senator Lautenberg.
“New Jersey’s residents are already overtaxed, and they do not want their hard-earned money wasted on unnecessary elections,” said Turner. “New Jersey residents want to see the value in every dollar spent and there is no value to them in spending more than $24 million for two special elections in which too few voters participated. The Legislature needs to correct this problem immediately and permanently so no future governors can use taxpayer money on a campaign strategy to promote their national ambitions.”
The law provides conflicting options, allowing the seat to be filled with an interim appointee and an election to be held at the next succeeding general election, allowing a temporary appointee to complete the term that ends in January 2015 or holding a special election. According to Turner, Christie chose the most expensive option, filling the seat temporarily and holding two special elections to avoid being on the same ballot as a popular Democrat.
Turner’s bill eliminates any confusion about how and when a U.S. Senate vacancy is filled. Under Turner’s bill, the Governor would no longer have the option of calling for special elections; the remainder of the term would only be filled by election at the regularly scheduled June and November elections. The bill requires a temporary appointment from the same political party as the person vacating the office to be made within 30 days of the occurrence of a vacancy.
The New Jersey Senate is scheduled to meet on Nov. 25 for a voting session.