COVID-19 continues to change the way local government business is conducted in New Jersey. On April 29, Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order allowing county and municipal clerks to accept initiative and referendum petitions electronically. Executive Order 132 also authorizes signatures for these petitions to be collected electronically. The measure aims to reduce unnecessary person- to-person contact.
“Now is not the time for anyone to be going door-to-door to campaign or collect signatures for any purpose,” Governor Murphy said in a press statement. “By allowing this process to move forward electronically, we can ensure that initiative and referendum campaigns proceed in a manner that protects public health.”
Below are the key provisions of EO 132:
- In addition to accepting hand delivery of initiative and referendum petitions, county clerks and municipal clerks must allow for these petitions to be submitted electronically.
- County clerks and municipal clerks must also accept petitions with signatures collected via an online form. (EO 132 expected that a generic form would be available for use by May 1, 2020.)
- Following the availability of the online template form, the county clerks and municipal clerks must require that signatures be gathered via the online template form. Hand signatures obtained prior to the effective date of EO 132 are also to be accepted.
- Statutory requirements that a petition circulator provide a notarized affidavit attesting to the validity of the signatures on the petition and the process by which the signatures were collected is suspended for initiative and referendum petitions submitted during the pendency of the public health emergency. Petition circulators who have not already notarized an affidavit must attach a signed statement verifying the information required in statutes, including but not limited to N.J.S.A. 40:69A-186, 40:74-11, and 40:41A-106.
- The use of the online form to gather signatures for petitions shall cease upon the termination of EO 132.
For more information about Executive Order 132 or the legal issues involved, we encourage you to contact a member of Scarinci Hollenbeck’s Government Law Group.