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Andrea Dealmagro v. New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission

January 25, 2011

ANDREA DEALMAGRO,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
NEW JERSEY ELECTION LAW ENFORCEMENT COMMISSION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cooper, District Judge

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

MEMORANDUM OPINION

The pro se Plaintiff, Andrea Dealmagro, brought this action for a judgment declaring New Jersey Administrative Code ("N.J.A.C.") § 19:25-15.49(a)-2 unconstitutional. (Dkt. entry no. 1, Compl.) The Defendant, the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission ("ELEC"), moves to dismiss the Complaint under either Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 12(b)(1) or Rule 12(b)(6). (Dkt. entry no. 5.) The Court determines the motion without oral argument pursuant to Rule 78(b). The Court will grant the Motion and dismiss the Complaint.

BACKGROUND

The Plaintiff, a New Jersey resident, claims to be an independent candidate for the 2013 New Jersey gubernatorial election. (Compl. at 1.) Part of the Plaintiff's political platform is that she will abstain from fundraising and will refuse all financial campaign contributions. (Id. at 2, 5.) The Plaintiff asserts that "openly renouncing to all fundraising is a form of political speech." (Id. at 2.)

To be a candidate for governor in New Jersey, one must be nominated by petition or at the primary for the general election. N.J.S.A. § 19:13-1. Independent candidates who wish to appear on the ballot for the 2013 gubernatorial election must obtain 800 signatures on a nominating petition. N.J.S.A. § 19:13-5. In addition to other procedural requirements, see N.J.S.A. §§ 19:13-5-19:13-8, 19:13-21, the petition must be submitted to the Secretary of State on the date of the 2013 primary election.

N.J.S.A. § 19:13-9. Though the Plaintiff has a political platform, she has not yet filed a petition to be an independent candidate for governor in 2013. (Dkt. entry no. 6, Pl. Opp'n at 2-3; Id., Ex. A, Platform.)

ELEC is a state agency charged with administering the New Jersey Campaign Contributions and Expenditures Reporting Act, N.J.S.A. § 19:44A-1, et seq., including the Gubernatorial Public Financing Program ("GPFP"). (Dkt. entry no. 5, Def. Br. at 1.) N.J.S.A. § 19:44A-5. The GPFP provides an opportunity for candidates to obtain public matching funds. N.J.S.A. § 19:44A-27. Candidates who receive matching funds are required to participate in a series of interactive public debates. N.J.S.A. § 19:44A-45. Candidates who do not receive matching funds may choose to participate in these debates, if they meet the requirements for being a "qualified candidate." See N.J.S.A. § 19:44A-3(m). To be a qualified candidate, a candidate who does not participate in the matching fund program must satisfy a financial qualification threshold. (Def. Br. at 10.) For the 2009 election, the requirement was as follows:

a) A candidate who has not by September 1 preceding a general election applied to the Commission for public matching funds may elect to participate in the series of interactive gubernatorial general election debates by:

1. Notifying the Commission in writing no later than September 1 preceding the general election for the office of Governor of his or her intent to participate in the series of gubernatorial general election debates; and

2. Filing a statement of qualification containing evidence that $340,000 has been deposited and expended pursuant to N.J.S.A. 19:44A-32 for gubernatorial general election expenses. The statement of qualification shall contain the same information, as that required at N.J.A.C. 19:25-15.48(a).

N.J.A.C. § 19:25-15.49(a). This monetary threshold is adjusted quadrennially. N.J.S.A. § 19:44A-7.1. The debates will only be held if at least two candidates are "qualified," because they either received public funds or elect to participate voluntarily. N.J.S.A. § 19:44A-45.

The Plaintiff claims that N.J.A.C. ยง 19:25-15.49(a)-2 (the "Threshold Provision"), as-applied and facially, violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, in that it conflicts with her free speech and association rights, i.e., her political stance of eschewing fundraising and contributions. (Compl. at 5.) ELEC argues that (1) the Plaintiff does not have standing, (2) the Plaintiff's claims are not ripe, (3) the Threshold Provision does not violate the First Amendment right to free ...


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