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Recall Christie Q&A

Posted by edison1205 on April 14, 2010


Some people and groups are advocating for the recall of N.J. Governor Chris Christie.  Here are some questions and answers about this recall movement.

Q.        Why are people expressing interest in a recall of Christie?

A.        Particular motives vary, but there is a great deal of anti-Christie sentiment caused by his proposals for cuts to the education budget and other programs.

Q.        How much public support is there for a recall?

A.        That’s difficult to say. The most recent statewide poll says that 33% of the people approve of Christie’s performance, while 63% disapprove, but that doesn’t mean that all those people would support recall.

Looking at the Web, sentiment seems to be against Christie. For example, the largest anti-Christie Facebook group, “NJ Against Chris Christie” has 36,000 members, while the largest pro-Christie group, the “Governor Chris Christie Fan Page” has only 8,000.

Q.        Give me a quick overview of the recall process, please.

A.        Basically, after November 30, any 3 voters can organize themselves into a recall committee. They submit papers to the the secretary of state, Kim Guadagno (who is also the Lieutenant Governor), and if everything is in order, collection of signatures can begin soon afterward. Petitioners have 320 days to collect about 1.3 million signatures from registered voters. If the signatures are validated, an election is then held on Christie’s recall. If he loses, his term ends immediately and Guadagno (in her role as lieutenant governor) becomes Governor.

Q.        Let’s go through the mechanics of a recall in greater detail now.   How does the process begin?

A.        Initially, you have to remember that recall laws differ from state to state, and there are even variations depending on which office is at stake.

But the first step in any recall process in New Jersey is that a committee of 3 registered voters must file a notice of intention with the Secretary of State.

Q.        What is the earliest date that the notice of intention can be filed?

A.        Fifty days before the candidate’s first anniversary in office. For Christie, that’s November 30, 2010.  No signatures can be collected before that date, and no contributions for the recall committee can be solicited or collected before either (1) the statement of intention is filed or (2) in some circumstances, 30 days prior to that date.

Q.        How important is the membership of the recall committee?

A.        The members of the committee “represent the sponsors and signers of the recall petition in matters relating to the recall effort.” Therefore, these must be individuals with great personal integrity and moral stamina to see the process through. In fact, since signatures collected by one recall committee cannot be used by any other recall committee, it’s crucial that the committee members be organized in their work and irrevocably committed to the process.

Q.        What does the recall committee file with its statement of intention?

A.        Among other things, the recall committee can — but is not required to — file a 200 word statement that lays out its case as to why the person should be recalled. If they do so, the officeholder also gets a 200 word reply, all of which goes on the petition. Accordingly, the recall committee would need to make a strategic decision about whether to give reasons or not.

Q.        Once the Secretary of State approves the recall committee’s paperwork, what happens?

A.        Circulators go out and collect signatures from registered voters. Because Governor is a statewide office, circulators have 320 days.  State law indicates that while circulators may be paid, each circulator must be a registered voter of New Jersey and actually sign the petition.  Some court decisions in other states have invalidated similar restrictions on petition circulators there, so it’s an open question whether these restrictions are Constitutional.

Q.        How many signatures must be collected?

A.        25 percent of all registered voters in New Jersey. While this number fluctuates over time, there are about 5.2 million names on the list of registered voters, out of the 5.8 million adult citizens who are eligible to register. Therefore, there would need to be about 1.3 million valid signatures collected. Most petition drives collect an extra safety margin of about 30 percent, meaning organizers would have to get close to 1.6 million.

Q.        Yikes! That’s a lot of names.  Can they be from any part of the State?

A.        Yes.  Unlike some jurisdictions, NJ does not prescribe any geographical distribution for signatures.

Q.        Getting all those signatures seems like a lot of work. Is it really feasible to pull it off?

A.        It will be extremely difficult.  To understand the magnitude, New Jersey is divided up into about 6,400 election precincts averaging 800-850 voters each. Petitioners would need an average of 250 signatures from each such neighborhood.  Also, Christie got about 1.17 million votes in the 2009 election and Corzine got about 1.08 million. To be successful, petitioners would need more signatures than the number of votes either candidate received.  Put yet another way, if the recall proponents had 1,600 active canvassers, each one would be responsible for 1,000 unique names.  By any measure, it would be a massive undertaking.

But Chris Christie has acted aggressively against, and inflicted damage upon, local schools, transit riders, college students, property tax rebate recipients, seniors, people with disabilities, and others.  The damage to the middle class has been substantial, and many feel it’s necessary for citizens to respond with the best legal means available: recall.

Q.        Is there any group that has the knowledge and geographic breadth to pull off such a large undertaking?

A.        Since New Jersey does not have statewide I&R, and no credible group has attempted a recall of a statewide officeholder, there are basically no people here with both knowledge of New Jersey and the knowledge of how to pull off a statewide petitioning campaign.  There are professionals from states that have I&R like California and Florida who could be engaged to help.  But the Democratic Party is very anemic in certain parts of the State, so another group that has true statewide reach, along with the motivation to do this, would be necessary.

Q.        Did you have such a group in mind?

A.        The only such group I can think of is the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA).

Q.        Assuming all the signatures ultimately get collected, what happens then?

A.        The signatures are turned in and checked for validity by the appropriate official. If validated, the official then schedules a recall election for a certain date according to a legal formula that takes into account when the petition was validated, and whether the petition sought the option of a special recall election.

Q.        At the election, what happens?

A.        The only recall-related question on the ballot will be whether the Governor should be recalled.  A majority (50 percent plus 1) is required to win the recall.  Unlike the procedure for local and county recalls in New Jersey or procedures in other states, there is no simultaneous election for a successor.  Rather, if the recall is successful, the Lieutenant Governor immediately becomes Governor.

Q.        Where can I find more information?

A.        You can read the recall statutes at N.J.S.A. 19:27A-1 to -18.  They can be found at, clicking on “statutes,” and entering the number of the law you want to look for, in quotes.


UPDATED 2X MAY 20, 2010


3 Responses to “Recall Christie Q&A”

  1. Philip Fontana said

    My compliments on such a thorough Q & A re any possible Recall Movement of Governor Christie. Many New Jersey citizens are ready “to get ready” with a committee before the magic date of November 30, 2010 comes when filing the appropriate papers to the Secretary of State & petitioning can begin. It’s time to get organized to “hit the ground running” this fall. The core group with any hope to pull this off would be the NJEA. However, the political implications & risks for the NJEA may preclude their involvement. We may have to do it alone as concerned citizens of New Jersey.

    • edison1205 said

      Thanks, Mr. Fontana. Did you want me to post your item for all to see, or was that just meant for the website moderators?

      Thanks for all you do for democracy.

  2. David Grant said

    This was an amazing Q&A, I Just Hope that it’s not too Late,I have been tied with Walker and the Michigan Gov., My Problem is I can’t find the Recall Petition anywhere… I have … Hundred’s of People ready to Sign…I need a Link….

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