Planet Princeton

How to Recall an Elected Official in New Jersey

More than half a dozen news outlets in New Jersey have called on Gov. Chris Christie to resign or be recalled by the voters in the wake of his move to support Donald Trump for president and his ongoing presence on the campaign trail instead of in the state he governs.

Many readers are asking what the recall process entails. Recalling an official in New Jersey is not an easy task, but it can be done. Officials who could themselves be recalled created the cumbersome process. The process approved by the state legislature requires that 25 percent of the registered voters in the elected official’s jurisdiction sign a petition to get the issue placed on the ballot. To get a Christie recall on the ballot, 25 percent of the voters in New Jersey who voted in the last general election in November of 2015 would need to sign the recall petition.

Moves to get a recall on the ballot in recent years have failed in Trenton and Ewing, where citizens came close to getting the required number of signatures for a referendum to be placed on the ballot, but ran out of time.

Yet in some towns, residents have successfully recalled officials. Voters in Roosevelt recalled Mayor Neil Marko in 2006. And in some municipalities, even though citizens did not obtain enough signatures for a ballot measure, officials, under pressure from their own political parties, resigned or did not seek reelection. In Ewing, for example, Democratic Mayor Wendell Pribila did not seek reelection in 2006 after an unsuccessful recall campaign.

To recall the governor, a committee with at least three members must be formed and a petition must be created listing the members. A brief statement may be included with the petition but is optional. The committee must also file forms with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.

New Jersey regulations covering recalls are set forth in state statutes 19:27A.

A recall committee must file a notice of its intention to recall an elected official with the county clerk. The notice must contain:

1. The name and office of the elected official sought to be recalled.

2. The name and business or residence address of at least three sponsors of the recall petition who constitute a recall committee that represents the sponsors and signers of the recall petition in matters relating to the recall effort.

3. The name of the recall committee, which shall be expressed in the following form: “COMMITTEE TO RECALL (name of the official sought to be recalled) FROM THE OFFICE OF (name of the office).”

4.  A statement certified by each member of the recall committee that the member is registered to vote in the jurisdiction of the official sought to be recalled and that the member supports the recall of the named official and accepts the responsibilities associated with serving on the recall committee.

5. At the option of the recall committee, a statement, not in excess of 200 words, of the reasons for the recall.

6. A statement as to whether the recall election shall be held at the next general election or regular election or at a special election.

The county clerk reviews the notice to make sure it has been properly filed, and serve a copy to the elected official in question. The official can make a statement of 200 words or less that then must be added to the first page of the petition.

Whenever the official sought to be recalled is the governor or a U.S. senator, separate sections of the petition must be prepared for use by signers registered to vote in each county.

People who circulate the petition and sign the petition must be registered to vote in New Jersey. This seems obvious, but it is surprising how many people sign petitions who are not registered to vote. At least 25 percent of the registered voters in the jurisdiction who voted in the last general election must sign the recall petition.

The recall committee has 320 days to get enough signatures for the measure to be placed on the ballot if the elected official is a governor or senator. For other elected officials in New Jersey, the time limit is 160 days.

The recall petition can be challenged by the elected official within 10 days of the completed petition being submitted. If it is not challenged, it will be placed on the ballot and must be approved by a majority of voters.

For more details on filing a recall petition, visit the New Jersey Department of Elections website.

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

  • Joe D

    Is there a legitimate recall effort one can work with at this point or is this nascent?

  • Bob G

    For my 2 cents, the only thing worse than having Gov. Christie galumphing around the country in pursuit of Presidential valor is having him back at home in NJ looking surly and disappointed.

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