These two cases involve the same issues of law and arise out of the same facts, with the sole difference being the names of plaintiffs and the fact that Anthony Cucci resides in the 14th congressional district and Alfonso Morgillo lives in the 13th congressional district. The cases have been consolidated for argument.
The facts have been stipulated to by counsel.
Plaintiffs had petitions of nomination prepared for filing in order to become candidates in the coming primary election for the office of members of the House of Representatives from their respective congressional districts. The petitions were to be filed before 4 P.M. on August 4, 1966, in the office of the Secretary of State, at Trenton by plaintiff Cucci and by a properly designated agent of plaintiff Morgillo, namely, his campaign manager Edward C. J. Meehan.
Cucci and Meehan left Jersey City at about 2 P.M. on August 4, 1966, en route to Trenton. They became involved in a traffic jam resulting from a traffic accident on the approach to the Hackensack River Bridge at Communipaw
Avenue, Jersey City, New Jersey. Once they were able to re-route their trip and avoid the traffic jam -- after being tied up in traffic for some considerable time -- Cucci and Meehan proceeded to Trenton within the permissible speed limits. They arrived at the office of the Secretary of State at about 4:20 P.M. and presented the petitions to Deputy Secretary of State Robert M. Falcey, who refused to accept them for filing.
The question raised is whether a petition of nomination may be filed within a reasonable time after the statutory deadline when the delay is through no fault of the applicants. There is no New Jersey precedent precisely on point.
The statutory time limit is set in N.J.S.A. 19:23-14, which provides that
"Petitions addressed to the Secretary of State, the county clerks, or the municipal clerks, shall be filed with such officers, respectively, before 4:00 o'clock P.M. of the fortieth day next preceding the day of the holding of the primary election for the general election.
Within 6 days after the last day for filing the petitions for nominations at the primary election for the general election, the municipal clerk shall certify to the county clerk the full and correct names and addresses of all candidates for nomination for public and party office and the name of the political party of which such persons are candidates together with their slogan and designation."
The legislative purpose is to be ascertained by considering all provisions of the Election Act in pari materia. In re Chirico, 87 N.J. Super. 587, 591 (App. Div. 1965). In addition, our case law has long held that the election laws are to be liberally construed. In Kilmurray v. Gilfert, 10 N.J. 435 (1952), the ...