The Edison Blog: Edison, New Jersey

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Archive for September, 2010

Flood watch

Posted by edison1205 on September 29, 2010

The National Weather Service has issued a flood watch for Edison and other local areas, for 2-5 inches of rain expected to begin tonight (Wednesday evening) through Friday.  Heavy winds gusting up to 40mph are also possible Thursday.

Stay safe, stay dry!

UPDATE: We received about 4 inches of rain in the area, but I haven’t heard any reports of flooding or damage.

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New: Recall Chris Christie

Posted by edison1205 on September 15, 2010

Some people and groups are advocating for the recall of N.J. Governor Chris Christie. Last April, we posted a Q&A about the recall process to give information about the process, but reserved judgment on whether a recall should occur. Today, after his visit to Edison, we are now convinced that a recall of Chris Christie as Governor is necessary and appropriate.

To put recall on the ballot requires about 1.3 million valid signatures from registered voters. So it cannot be done by a few scattered bloggers or activists. If it is to work, it needs to be backed by the NJEA or another group with similar statewide reach and resources. Even before the hard work of collecting signatures can begin, the advocates for this plan need to educate themselves about the process, because much of what we read on the Web about it is ignorant and misguided.

We have revamped the Q&A about the recall process, and an edited version appears below.

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

A.        That’s difficult to say. The most recent credible statewide poll says that 51% of the people approve of Christie’s performance, while 36% disapprove, but that doesn’t mean that all those people would support recall.  UPDATE: Christie’s numbers are down to 45-38 as of September 21.

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

A.        Basically, after November 30, any 3 voters can organize themselves into a recall committee. They submit appropriate papers to the secretary of state, Kim Guadagno (who is also the Lieutenant Governor), and if everything is in order, she approves the format and collection of signatures can begin soon afterward. Petitioners have 320 days to collect about 1.3 million valid 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 until the term would have expired, in January 2014. There is no election for a successor.

Q.           Can a recall be done for any reason?

A.           Yes. Some people confuse recall with impeachment, but they are completely different processes. Impeachment requires proof to the satisfaction of the State Senate that a public official committed a “misdemeanor  . . . during their respective continuance in office.” Recall, on the other hand, can be done for any reason, or for no reason. And if reasons are given, they cannot be challenged in Court. The applicable part of the recall law, N.J.S.A. 19:27A-4 says:

No statement of reasons or grounds for the holding of a recall election or for the recall at such an election of an elected official shall be required in connection with the preparation or circulation of a recall petition, with the transmittal of any notice required under the provisions of this act, with the submission to the voters of the question of the recall of an elected official, or with any other action or procedure relating to such a recall, and to the extent that any such statement of reasons or grounds is offered by the sponsors of a recall petition or by any other person, the sufficiency of that statement shall be a political rather than a judicial question.

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 within NJ 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 recall election official who, for a gubernatorial recall, is 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. I would not support it-it clutters the petition and is probably unpersuasive when put in a voter’s face during a signature drive.

Q.           Where can I find forms that illustrate how to properly fill out a recall petition in NJ?

A.            At the state elections webpage, http://www.njelections.org/recall-election/recall-election-petition-090109.pdf.

Q.           I have a crazy idea! I want to use the forms used to recall Gray Davis as California governor a few years back. That recall was successful! Can I use such forms from other states?

A.            NO! Your idea is crazy. Use the New Jersey form. The laws of other states are different, and if you use those forms you will likely be rejected!

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.

Q.           With the power of the Internet, this shouldn’t be that difficult, right?

A.            Wrong! Only original signatures, on a validated petition form, are acceptable. Electronic signatures, emails, e-petitions, and the like do not count.

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. 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 about 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 and costly undertaking.

And that just gets you to the ballot-then you actually have to campaign to pass the recall.

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 it’s advisable for citizens to respond with the best legal means available: recall.

For a good summary of the arguments against recall articulated by a progressive blogger, “Deciminyan,” read here: http://www.deciminyan.org/2010/03/dont-impeach-chris-christie.html. Another argument that has been made if that either the petitioning or the actual recall election is unsuccessful, that will backfire by emboldening Christie. I respect, but do not agree with, those arguments, but still want those views heard along with mine.

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). Other unions or union coalitions might also be able to pull it off. Unfortunately, none of them have said what plans, if any, they have to push recall.

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

A.        The signatures are turned in and checked for validity by the Secretary of State. If validated, she 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 other 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 www.njleg.state.nj.us, clicking on “statutes,” and entering the number of the law you want to look for, in quotes.

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