Governor Phil Murphy announced that he signed an executive order today moving the primary election in New Jersey date from Tuesday, June 2nd to Tuesday July 7th.
“First, a poorly kept secret,” said Murphy, referring to the election date change as a consequence of COVID-19. “This is being done for two simple reasons. We want to preserve the possibility of improvements will allow for in-person voting.”
A five week delay sets up that possibility, he said.
“Failing that,” Murphy added, “if we have to move to an all-VBM eection, the task becomes easier with an extra month [of preparation time],” Murphy noted.
“Our election cannot be a casualty of COVID-19,” the governor said.
Essex County Clerk Chris Durkin reacted to the news.
“The Governor is making the prudent decision to move our primary election, so that voters can possibly have an opportunity to experience a regular election that offers both vote by mail and voting at the polls on Election Day,” Durkin told InsiderNJ.
From the Governor’s Office:
Governor Phil Murphy today signed Executive Order No. 120, postponing primary elections on Tuesday, June 2nd to Tuesday, July 7th in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This includes primaries for President, the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives, the 25th District of the New Jersey Legislature, and county and municipal elections, as well as county committee elections. Last month, Governor Murphy issued Executive Order No. 105, which delayed certain elections set to take place in March and April until May 12th.
“Preserving basic functions of our democracy is critical in this unprecedented time,” said Governor Murphy. “Citizens exercising their right to vote should not have to risk their safety and the safety of others in order to make their voices heard. Postponing our primary elections is a difficult, yet necessary, choice to ensure that our citizens can partake in their civic duty of voting.”
“Governor Murphy’s decision to move New Jersey’s primary election to July 7, 2020 will provide our state, county, and local election officials with the time we need to prepare for a free, fair, and safe election for New Jersey voters.” said Secretary of State Tahesha Way.
The Order also states that all deadlines for meeting statutory requirements for a primary election that are currently scheduled to occur after April 11 will be calculated using the July 7, 2020 primary election date. This would not affect any deadlines that 1) have already passed, such as the filing deadline for candidate petitions for the primary election, or 2) will pass prior to April 11. The only exception is the deadline for change of party affiliation declaration forms to be filed, which is currently scheduled for April 8 and will move to May 13.
Additionally, independent candidate petitions will be due by 4:00 p.m. on July 7, 2020, and the electronic signature and submission requirements that were set forth in Executive Order No. 105 for primary candidates will be extended to these independent candidate petitions.
Election rules have been modified during prior emergencies, including by Governor Kean in 1982 during a severe winter storm and by the Christie Administration in 2012 in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.
From Monday’s InsiderNJ report in anticipation of Murphy’s order:
Clerks in particular have been eagerly anticipating an announcement by Murphy so they can make processing preparations.
One source told InsiderNJ that Murphy is not expected yet to command an all vote-by-mail election as the state waits to examine the effects of social distancing on the deadly COVID-19 virus. But most county clerks did make that recommendation and recognize it’s still a likely (most hope inevitable) option as the season advances on the new election date.
“Given the current climate, the best solution, I feel, would be an all vote-by-mail election with all registered Democrats and Republicans receiving ballots and unaffilateds only receiving ballots by a vote -by-mail application,” Essex County Clerk Chris Durkin said. “It is a good solution to all the moving parts and complications.”
That said, the Essex clerk said it’s advisable for the governor at this time only to move the date without locking in all VBM.
“He wants to learn more,” said Durkin. “He wants to be guided by the science and the environment. He obviously wants what’s best for the voter. Waiting is prudent – but not waiting too long.”
Again, given the devastation of COVID-19, most sources expect a considerably encouraged all-VBM election even if the governor decides to move the primary to July. Even then, “I think we are going to have issues with polling places and workers [most of whom are older],” said a source.