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In re Appointment to Hudson County Board of Elections

Decided: October 21, 1987.

IN THE MATTER OF APPOINTMENT TO THE HUDSON COUNTY BOARD OF ELECTIONS


On appeal from Final Action of the Hon. Thomas H. Kean, Governor.

Pressler, Bilder and Muir, Jr. The opinion of the court was delivered by Muir, Jr., J.A.D.

Muir

[220 NJSuper Page 368] Appellants, the Vice-Chairlady of the Hudson County Democratic Committee, the Hudson County Democratic State Committeeman and the Hudson County State Committeewoman, challenge Governor Thomas H. Kean's nomination and commission of Robert Jackson as a Democratic member of the Hudson County Election Board. They argue the Governor's appointment is invalid and assert their nominee, Katie Harris, should

be commissioned. The appeal requires our determination of the meaning of N.J.S.A. 19:6-18 in relation to N.J.S.A. 19:6-20.

N.J.S.A. 19:6-18 prescribes the method of appointment of County Election Board members. In pertinent sections, the statute provides:

During the 30-day period immediately preceding February 15 in each year, the chairman and vice-chairlady of each county committee and the State committeeman and State committeewoman of each of such two political parties, respectively shall meet and jointly, in writing, nominate one person residing in the county of such county committee chairman, duly qualified, for member of the county board in and for such county.

If nomination be so made, the said county committee chairman shall certify the nomination so made to the State chairman and to the Governor, and the Governor shall commission such appointees, who shall be members of opposite parties, on or before March 1. If nomination be not so made on account of a tie vote in the said meeting of the county committee chairman, county committee vice-chairlady, State committeeman and State committee-woman, in respect to such nomination, the said county committee chairman shall certify the fact of such a tie vote to the State chairman, who shall have the deciding vote and who shall certify, in writing, to the Governor, the nomination made by his deciding vote. . . .

N.J.S.A. 19:6-20, the statute under which the Governor commissioned Jackson, reads:

If any nomination is not made and certified in writing to the Governor within the time specified, the Governor shall make such appointments of his own selection from the citizens of the county in which such failure occurs.

The events leading to Jackson's commission are uncontroverted. On February 26, 1987, the Hudson County Democratic County Committee Chairman and Vice-Chairlady and the Hudson County Democratic State Committeeman and State Committeewoman (hereafter statutory committee) met to nominate their candidate to the Hudson County Election Board. The County Committee Chairman nominated Frank Caleca, whose term on the board expired March 1. The nomination failed by a three to one vote. The nomination of Katie Harris then succeeded by the same vote. Harris qualified as a registered Democrat and Hudson County resident.

On February 27, 1987, the State Democratic Committee Chairman, Raymond Durkin, received certification of the statutory committee's nomination of Harris to the election board. Durkin's secretary, Evelyn Williams, had the certification delivered to Michael Gluck, appointment counsel to the Governor, on March 2, 1987. The precise time of day the Secretary of State received the certification is not clear. The Governor's brief states it was "very near the close of the business day. . . ."

The Governor, on March 26, 1987, nominated and commissioned Robert Jackson. Jackson is qualified as a registered ...


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