A three-judge appellate panel has rejected a challenge to Gov. Chris Christie’s decision to call a special election to fill the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s seat in October, three weeks before the regularly scheduled November election. “Without question, the Governor was authorized to call a special election in this circumstance,” state Superior Court Judge Jane Grall wrote. Grall said the Legislature “has delegated broad authority to the State’s governor.” On June 4 – the day after Lautenberg died — Christie announced plans hold a special primary on Aug. 13 followed by a special general election on Oct. 16 – a Wednesday — to fill his seat. The nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services estimated that the special primary and general elections will cost $24 million combined. While Democrats did not dispute the need for the primary, they said Christie should have called the special election to take place at the same time as the regularly scheduled November election, when he’s on the ballot.
The court challenge was filed on Friday by Peg Schaffer, the Somerset County Democratic chairwoman, though she said she was not acting on the party’s behalf.
Schaffer argued that Christie should have called the Senate election at the same time as his own gubernatorial election three weeks later. She said holding it in October was designed to confuse voters and disenfranchise them.
“Two deadlines for absentee ballots. Two ballots for the elections. Two registration deadlines,” Schaffer said last week. “It’s designed to lead to confusion.”
Schaffer, in a phone interview tonight, said she will decide on Friday whether to appeal the decision after discussing it with groups that filed sympathetic briefs in the case.
“We’re going to talk to each other and decide whether or not it’s going to be fruitful,” Schaffer said. “”Needless to say I disagree with the decision.”