This is a suit by a would-be candidate to obtain a place on the ballot in a special election to be held June 23, 1982 to fill a vacancy in the Senate seat for the 33rd Legislative District.
On May 17, 1982 the New Jersey Senate, finding the incumbent Senator no longer eligible to hold office by virtue of a criminal conviction, declared a vacancy and issued a writ of election calling for a special election on June 23, 1982 to fill that vacancy. N.J.S.A. 19:3-28; N.J.S.A. 19:27-4; N.J.S.A. 19:27-6.*fn1 Thereupon, nominations were made and filed by the various candidates involved in this litigation. Defendants La Rocca and Teti are respectively the candidates of the Democratic and Republican parties. They were nominated by their parties in accordance with N.J.S.A. 19:27-11 and filed with the Secretary of State on May 24, 1982. Plaintiff and defendant Munoz sought nomination by petition. Defendant Munoz filed with the Secretary of State on May 20; plaintiff unsuccessfully attempted
to file his petition on May 24 but the Secretary of State refused him on the ground that the filing date for independent candidates had expired on May 20. Plaintiff contends that either he had the same right as party candidates to file until May 24, 1982, or the statutory scheme is unconstitutional in its failure to grant independent candidates equal protection.
N.J.S.A. 19:27-11 in pertinent part reads as follows:
In the event of any vacancy in the Senate or General Assembly, each political party shall select a candidate for the office in question in the manner prescribed in R.S. 19:13-20 for selecting candidates to fill vacancies among candidates nominated at primary elections, and shall do so within 7 days of the issuance of the writ of election.
A statement of such selection shall be filed with the Secretary of State not later than 7 days after the issuance of the writ of election.
Beside the selection of candidates by each political party as before provided, candidates may also be nominated by petition in a similar manner as herein provided for direct nomination by petition for the general election; but the petition shall be filed with the county clerk or the Secretary of State, as the law may require, at least 34 days prior to such general election.
When the vacancy occurs in the Senate or General Assembly, the county clerk of each county which is comprised in whole or part in the Senate or Assembly District shall forthwith give notice thereof to the chairman of the county committee of each political party and in counties of the first class to the county board.
The county clerk shall print on the ballots for the territory affected, in the personal choice column, the title of office and leave a proper space under such title of office; and print the title of office and the names of such persons as have been duly nominated, in their proper columns.
Legislative history in New Jersey, in the absence of a study commission,*fn2 is poor to nonexistent. Often it consists solely of the Statement attached to ...