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In re Charles Ross Petition for Nomination for General Election

Decided: September 15, 1971.

IN RE: CHARLES ROSS PETITION FOR NOMINATION FOR GENERAL ELECTION, NOVEMBER 2, 1971, PETITION FOR STATE SENATOR SECOND SENATE DISTRICT FILED APRIL 29, 1971


Lewis, Kolovsky and Halpern. The opinion of the court was delivered by Lewis, P.J.A.D.

Lewis

The appeal in this controversy by John L. Toy, Jr. (objector), challenging the direct nominating petition of Charles Ross (candidate) for the office of State Senator, Second Senate District, was accelerated for oral argument on September 14, 1971. The following day we announced that a unanimous opinion of the court would be filed affirming the determination of the Secretary of State that candidate's petition would be accepted as valid.

On April 29, 1971 candidate filed with the Secretary of State his nominating petition, for the November 2, 1971 general election, on two "sheets" which originally contained 135 signatures. Candidate reduced the number of signatures on the "sheets" to 123 when immediately before filing he voluntarily struck 12 names. On May 3 (a weekend intervening) objector, acting as a private citizen and not in his capacity as chairman of the Atlantic County Board of Elections, filed an objection to the petition, certifying that he had examined the registry books and records of the election board and that the petition did not contain the required 100 names of registered voters in the election district. Notice

thereof was forwarded by the Secretary of State's office to the candidate on May 10.

A hearing on the objection was held on May 26 before the Assistant Secretary of State, at which time objector challenged 28 petition names -- 2 for late registration, 25 for no record of registration and 1 as a subscriber who wished to withdraw her signature. The hearing was adjourned to June 25 in order to afford the candidate an opportunity to refute the objector's claim and to afford both parties additional time to present their proofs. At the adjourned hearing objector sought to disqualify an additional three signatories, who, together with a signer who had been otherwise challenged at the May meeting, desired to have their names deleted from the petition.

At the conclusion of the second hearing the hearing officer made it clear to both parties that any additional information "that will help us make a decision" had to be submitted by June 30. On July 1 objector produced records that allegedly might support four new challenges. This evidence was rejected presumably because it was untimely submitted, candidate had not had an opportunity to rebut it and the hearing had been closed.

The decision on behalf of the Secretary of State, rendered July 12, validated 8 and disqualified 23 of the 31 challenged signatures. The opinion concluded with the statement, "It is the decision of the Hearing Officer that the petition of Charles Ross had one hundred (100) valid signers at the shutoff date June 30th and for that reason the petition will be accepted by the Office of the Secretary of State as filed April 29, 1971."

Here, objector attacks the nominating petition in its entirety, contending that it was not properly certified as required by law and that it was not circulated in good faith. Additionally, he maintains that the petition was signed by fewer than the required number of legally qualified voters.

First, we dispose of the arguments addressed to the petition as a whole. Each of its two component "sheets"

was certified by five voters, as provided by N.J.S.A. 19:13-6 and 7. The same five voters, however, did not certify both "sheets." That is not required. See In re Petition of Job , 111 N.J. Super. 170, 173 (App. Div.), certif. den. 57 N.J. 124 (1970). The issue has now been squarely put to rest by the decision of our Supreme Court in In re Petition of Smith, etc. , 59 N.J. 236 (September 13, 1971), holding that "The legitimate statutory objective [ N.J.S.A. 19:13-7] may be met by a single verification * * * and no more." The instant petition was adequately certified.

The record is barren of any evidence of fraud, forgery or wrongdoing such as that condemned by this court in McCaskey v. Kirchoff , 56 N.J. Super. 178 (App. Div. 1959). Objector failed to support his contention that candidate and his ...


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