As the COVID-19 crisis unfolded in early March 2020, Governor Phil Murphy issued a series of Executive Orders focused on reducing the spread of the virus by limiting person-to-person contact. With that in mind, one order, Executive Order 105, required the collection and submission of political party candidate and delegate petitions through an online form. Similarly, Executive Order 120 extended electronic collection and submission of petitions to Independent candidates seeking nomination for the upcoming general election.
Taking another step, Governor Murphy, on April 29, 2020, signed Executive Order 132 (“EO 132”), allowing electronic submission of initiative and referendum petitions. It should be noted, however, that petitions may still be submitted by hand delivery.
EO 132 directs the Secretary of State to create a generic online form, in consultation with the Department of Law and Public Safety, to collect and submit signatures electronically to county and municipal clerks. The form is to be available by May 1, 2020.
EO 132 mandates that county and municipal clerks require signatures to be collected via the online form once it is available. But hand signatures obtained prior April 29, 2020, shall still be accepted.
In addition, the legal requirements that a petition circulator file a notarized affidavit in respect of the validity of the signatures, as well as the signature-collection process, are suspended for the duration of the COVID-19 health crisis. Nevertheless, EO 132 requires petition circulators to attach to the petition a signed statement verifying certain required statutory information, including information required by N.J.S.A. 40:69A-186; N.J.S.A. 40:74-11; and N.J.S.A. 40:41A-106, which generally require confirmation of the authenticity of the signatures and collection process.
EO 132 is effective immediately and permits the use of the online form to collect signatures for initiatives and referenda until EO 132 is terminated.
This article is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice.
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