Harding Advisories/Notices

3/19/2020 - Governor Issues Executive Order regarding Elections - Petitions

Governor Murphy Executive Order Regarding Elections - Municipal Petitions

EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 105

WHEREAS, in light of the dangers posed by COVID-19, I issued

Executive Order No. 103 (2020) on March 9, 2020, the facts and

circumstances of which are adopted by reference herein, which

declared both a Public Health Emergency and State of Emergency;

and


WHEREAS, to further protect the health, safety, and welfare
of New Jersey residents by, among other things, reducing the
rate of community spread of COVID-19, I issued Executive Order
No. 104 (2020) on March 16, 2020, the facts and circumstances
of which are also adopted by reference herein, which established
statewide social mitigation strategies for combatting COVID-19
and; and

WHEREAS, as of March 18, 2020, according to the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”), there were more than
191,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with over 7,800
of those cases having resulted in death; and

WHEREAS, as of March 18, 2020, there were more than 7,000
confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, with at least
97 of those cases having resulted in death; and

WHEREAS, as of March 18, 2020, there were 427 positive
cases of COVID-19 in New Jersey, spread across numerous
counties; and

WHEREAS, State and Federal public health experts, including
officials at CDC, believe that infections will continue to
spread at exponential rates unless aggressive action is taken
to minimize person-to-person contacts and to reduce any
unnecessary interactions; and

WHEREAS, the COVID-19 emergency is unfolding alongside
numerous contemporaneous local, State and Federal elections;
and

WHEREAS, the New Jersey Secretary of State is legally

obligated to ensure that all qualified voters within the State
are able to fully exercise their constitutionally protected
right to vote; and

WHEREAS, allowing certain upcoming elections to proceed
during this unprecedented COVID-19 health crisis as they were
originally planned will create hardships and health risks for
voters, poll workers and candidates alike; and

WHEREAS, election officials require flexibility and
sufficient lead time to adapt the State’s voting infrastructure
to confront the magnitude of the public health and safety risks
of the COVID-19 pandemic; and

WHEREAS, social distancing measures are required for a
period of as-yet-undetermined duration, and the COVID-19
outbreak may have significant effects on New Jersey’s voting
systems as long as social distancing measures are in place and
for some time thereafter; and

WHEREAS, the full participation of voters and candidates
is critical to a robust democracy; and

WHEREAS, failing to take proactive actions to mitigate the
adverse impacts of the current health crisis on certain upcoming
elections carries the risk of disenfranchising countless
citizens; and

WHEREAS, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 19:23-14, petitions for
candidates for the June 2, 2020 primary election are due by 4:00
p.m. on March 30, 2020; and
WHEREAS, allowing candidates to submit their petitions
electronically, in addition to by hand delivery, will help limit
unnecessary person-to-person contact; and
3

WHEREAS, allowing voters to fill out and submit petitions
electronically, so that candidates and campaigns need not
physically gather petitions by going to individual voters in
person, will help limit unnecessary person-to-person contact;
and

WHEREAS, the COVID-19 emergency will significantly hinder
otherwise qualified candidates from meeting the nomination
requirements set forth in N.J.S.A. 19:23-7, 19:23-11, 19:23-14,
19:23-15, 19:25-3, 19:34-8, and 19:24-4; and

WHEREAS, temporarily modifying the requirements of N.J.S.A.
19:23-8, 19:23-14, 19:24-4, and 19:25-3 to allow for electronic
submission of petitions is needed to keep voters engaged during
this unprecedented crisis; and

WHEREAS, States generally have discretion to dictate the
time, manner and place of elections in the absence of
controlling federal law; and

WHEREAS, requiring voters to report to public polling
locations to vote under the current circumstances will hinder
public participation in the democratic process, particularly
among elderly and immune-compromised voters, and undermine the
legislative intent of provisions like N.J.S.A. 19:8-2 and 19:8-
3.1, which are designed to ensure that such voters can exercise
their right to vote; and

WHEREAS, voting by mail is already an authorized mode of
voting in New Jersey pursuant to Title 19, subtitles 62 and 63;
and

WHEREAS, at least 34 states and the District of Columbia
already allow voters to cast their ballot via mail and five
states run entirely vote-by-mail elections; and

WHEREAS, in-person voting has declined over the years,

while the total number of voters who voted early, absentee or
by mail has steadily increased; and

WHEREAS, New Jersey citizens are presently faced with the
choice of exercising their constitutional franchise, or
endangering their health and safety; and

WHEREAS, a temporary delay in certain elections that are
rapidly approaching will give the county and municipal election
officials enough time to send vote-by-mail ballots to all
registered voters for these elections, allowing voters to
exercise their constitutional franchise without jeopardizing
their health and safety; and

WHEREAS, in order to prepare vote-by-mail ballots for all
registered voters in the upcoming elections, state, county and
municipal election officials need sufficient preparation time;
and

WHEREAS, the Constitution and statutes of the State of New
Jersey, particularly the provisions of N.J.S.A. 26:13-1 et seq.,
N.J.S.A. App. A: 9-33 et seq., N.J.S.A. 38A:3-6.1, and N.J.S.A.
38A:2-4 and all amendments and supplements thereto, confer upon
the Governor of the State of New Jersey certain emergency
powers;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, PHILIP D. MURPHY, Governor of the State
of New Jersey, in order to protect the health, safety and welfare
of the people of the State of New Jersey and in accordance with
the authority vested in me by the New Jersey Constitution and
statutes of the State of New Jersey, hereby ORDER and DIRECT
the following:
1. In addition to accepting hand delivery of candidate
and delegate petitions that are due by 4:00 p.m. on March 30,
2020, the Secretary of State, county clerks, and municipal
clerks shall allow for these candidate and delegate petitions
to be submitted electronically.

2. The Secretary of State, county clerks, and municipal
clerks shall also accept petitions with signatures collected
via an online form created by the Secretary of State, which
shall be available for use by Thursday, March 19, 2020.
Following the availability of the online form, the Secretary of
State, county clerks, and municipal clerks shall require that
signatures be gathered via the online form. Hand signatures
obtained prior to the effective date of this Executive Order
shall also be accepted.

3. The online form shall be provided to county clerks and
municipal clerks as a means of accepting petitions that are due
to them by 4:00 p.m. on March 30, 2020.

4. The verification requirements of N.J.S.A. 19:23-11,
insofar as they are not included on the online form created by
the Secretary of State, shall be suspended for petitions due by
4:00 p.m. on March 30, 2020.

5. The requirements of N.J.S.A. 19:23-7 and N.J.S.A.
19:23-15 that a candidate provide a notarized oath of allegiance
with their petition shall be suspended for petitions due by 4:00
pm on March 30, 2020. Candidates who have not already signed
and notarized an oath of allegiance shall attach a signed pledge
of allegiance to their petitions containing the same language
as prescribed in N.J.S.A. 41:1-1.

6. The special election scheduled for March 21, 2020, in
the Fire District 1 for the Township of Old Bridge in the County
of Middlesex, the special election scheduled for March 31, 2020,
in the Township of West Amwell in the County of Hunterdon, and
the special election scheduled for March 31, 2020, in the City
of Atlantic City in the County of Atlantic shall be postponed
until May 12, 2020, to be held concurrently with the elections
currently scheduled for that date.

7. The elections that are scheduled for April 21, 2020,
shall be postponed until May 12, 2020, also to be held
concurrently with the elections currently scheduled for that
date.

8. Any election scheduled for a date between March 19,
2020 and May 12, 2020, not specifically referenced in Paragraph
6 and 7, shall be postponed until May 12, 2020. Further, no
other elections may be held or proceed prior to May 12, 2020.

9. All elections that take place on May 12, 2020,
including those previously scheduled for that date and those
rescheduled as a result of this Order, shall be conducted solely
via vote-by-mail ballots, which will automatically be sent to
all registered voters without the need for an application to
receive a vote-by-mail ballot.

10. The requirements of N.J.S.A. 19:14-25 that sample
ballots be sent shall be suspended. All registered voters will
be receiving vote-by-mail ballots and there will be no polling
places in the May 12, 2020 elections.

11. The time restrictions of N.J.S.A. 19:63-9 shall be
suspended, and vote-by-mail ballots shall be mailed in
compliance with a schedule to be prepared by the Secretary of
State in a manner to ensure the timely receipt and return of
ballots for counting in the May 12, 2020 elections.

12. To ensure that all registered voters, whether active
or inactive, are provided with the opportunity to exercise their
right to vote through the use of vote-by-mail ballots in the
May 12, 2020 elections, N.J.S.A. 19:63-3(f), which prohibits
the county clerk from sending a vote-by-mail ballot to inactive
voters, shall be suspended.

13. Vote-by-mail ballots shall be processed and canvassed
in compliance with standards established by the Secretary of
State and in accordance with guidelines provided by the State
Department of Health and where necessary, superseding the
statutory deadlines established at N.J.S.A. 19:63-17 and 19:63-
22, including the allowance of the early counting of vote-bymail
ballots prior to May 12, 2020.

14. All vote-by-mail return envelopes shall have prepaid
postage in order to guarantee the proper delivery of all cast
vote-by-mail ballots.

15. The Secretary of State shall establish appropriate
standards for ensuring that all eligible citizens are able to
exercise their right to vote through the use of vote-by-mail
ballots in the May 12, 2020 elections.

16. This Order shall take effect immediately.
GIVEN, under my hand and seal this
19th day of March,
Two Thousand and Twenty, and
of the Independence of the
United States, the Two
Hundred and Forty-Fourth.
[seal] /s/ Philip D. Murphy
Governor
Attest:
/s/ Matthew J. Platkin
Chief Counsel to the Governor