New Jersey elections scheduled over the next five weeks will be shifted to May 12 and conducted entirely by mail, state officials announced Thursday. The primaries for now remain on target to be conducted in the regular fashion on June 2.

The candidate filing deadline for the June primaries remains March 30, though any additional canvassing for nominating petition signatures must be done online via the state Division of Elections website.

Gov. Phil Murphy said he “will not hesitate” to make changes to the primaries if the novel coronavirus pandemic makes that necessary.

“We have no timetable to make any assessment on the June 2 election, but obviously it’s in top of mind,” Murphy said. “And if we need to act and adjust that in any way, we will do so on a timely basis.”

“There is no greater right in a democracy than the right to vote,” he said. “Over the years, people have quite literally given their lives for their right to vote. But given the current emergency, we want to make sure everyone is safe in voting.”

Special elections on March 27 in an Old Bridge fire district and March 31 in Atlantic City and West Amwell and school elections on April 21 in 12 municipalities have been moved to May 12, the same day as the regularly scheduled nonpartisan municipal elections in 16 municipalities.

That extra time gives county and local election officials an opportunity to adjust to Murphy’s order that the elections be conducted entirely by mail, said Secretary of State Tahesha Way, who oversees elections.

“At a time when certain voters including the elderly and those with preexisting conditions or chronic illnesses are at particular risk for contracting COVID-19, we cannot allow them or any voter to have to make the choice between their personal well-being and moving democracy forward,” Way said.

“Conducting elections in this manner also protects the well-being of those who serve as poll workers, many of them are over the age of 60,” she said.

All registered voters in communities with elections will be mailed ballots for the May 12 election. They will include a return envelope with prepaid postage.

Way said the state is exploring whether it can use federal Help America Vote Act funds to reimburse counties for additional costs they incur to administer the revamped elections. She said there are some cost savings involved, as polling places and poll workers, who are paid $200 a day, won’t be needed.

Instructions for how candidates and their supporters can submit virtual petition signatures are on the Division of Elections website, elections.nj.gov.

Candidates who already have completed petition forms should turn them in, either electronically or by fax, mail or hand delivery. Staffers will check for petitions physically arriving in Trenton, Way said.


Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com.