Gov. Chris Christie is ready to hire more state workers and rent extra voting machines to avoid any last-minute chaos between New Jersey’s two major elections this year, his administration told the state Supreme Court this week. After U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s death earlier this month, Christie called a special Senate election for Oct. 16 at an estimated cost of $12 million — a price tag that would rise if the Republican governor goes through with any of the backup plans his staff described to the court. The date for the Senate election — 20 days before the Nov. 5 vote for governor and for all the seats in the Legislature — has rankled Democrats who said Christie could have combined the two elections but chose to spend millions to split them and boost his re-election chances. In a worst-case scenario, the 20-day window between the special election and the regularly scheduled one in November could dwindle to just 48 hours, state election officials said in a filing to the state Supreme Court, which is expected to rule soon whether Christie must combine the two elections.
Under state law, voting machines are locked down for 15 days after an election, in case a defeated candidate seeks a recount. In addition, voting machines are supposed to be in place five days before an election.
Because the elections are so close together, state election officials conceded to the high court they would be cutting it close this year.
“That would mean that voting machines will be ready for shipment on November 2, at the latest,” Robert Giles, the director of the state Division of Elections, wrote in a filing to the court on Tuesday.
A mad dash to get the machines back to the polling sites would ensue, according to a coalition of progressive groups challenging Christie’s decision in state Supreme Court.
“It is literally impossible from a logistical standpoint to conduct two elections in that accelerated time frame,” the New Jersey Appleseed Public Interest Law Center wrote in a legal filing on Monday.