A bill sponsored by Senator Ronald L. Rice which would extend the deadline for filing nominating petitions each year that new legislative districts are drawn was approved recently by the Senate by a vote of 32-1.

“This legislation would ensure that candidates running in a primary are given a fair chance to be heard, and are able to consider district boundary changes and put together a slate to run with during a redistricting year,” said Senator Rice, D-Essex. “During redistricting, off-the-line candidates are sometimes at a disadvantage, with a shortened primary schedule and less time to find and recruit running mates to fill their line, resulting in their being given unfavorable position on the ballot. This bill guarantees that all candidates – Democratic or Republican – have an equal opportunity in the primary election, whether they’re supported by the county party organization or not.”

The bill, S-2653, would provide that, in each year in which new legislative districts are drawn, petitions for the primary election are to be filed before 4:00 p.m. of the 50th day preceding the election.

According to Senator Rice, the bill would apply to candidates for legislative office, as well as every candidate running in the party primary for any elected office, so that the legislative candidates have enough time to put together a slate of candidates to file for an off-the-line challenge. The bill would also revise any other deadlines and dates associated with the primary election accordingly, and would require the Secretary of State to undertake any steps deemed necessary to notify candidates, election officials and the general public about those changes.

This bill sends the message loud and clear that although it might be tough to beat a political machine in New Jersey, it shouldn’t be impossible,” said Senator Rice. “The support of a county political organization shouldn’t be tantamount to coronation, and every candidate should get equal consideration by the voters in a primary. This bill would allow the best candidates a chance to compete, and would force candidates to address the issues, and not simply depend on the support of entrenched party bosses.”

The bill now heads to the Assembly for consideration, where identical legislation is pending before the Assembly State Government Committee.