Today at 4 PM is the deadline for candidates nominated in the July 7 New Jersey primary election to drop out of the race and still give their parties the chance to replace them on the general election ballot.
Gov. Phil Murphy changed the deadline late Tuesday night in order to speed up the process of designing ballots for a general election that will be conducted primarily through vote-by-mail ballots.
The statutory deadline had been September 10.
This particular deadline has become fungible over the last eighteen years, since the New Jersey Supreme Court allowed Democrats to replace their candidate for U.S. Senator in October even after some ballots had been printed and mailed – and after some overseas military ballots had already been cast.
The top court cited voter choice and ruled that as long as it was administratively feasible to make a candidate switch, late replacement candidates would be allowed.
There was one caveat: the political party making the switch would have to pay any costs associated with changing their candidates.
That could get hugely expensive in a mostly all-VBM election.
Since the 2002 Supreme Court ruling, there have been dozens of incidents were candidates missed the statutory deadline but were still replaced on the ballot.
In 2003, State Sen. Joseph Suliga (D-Linden) dropped his bid for re-election to the State Senate to focus on some personal issues. He was replaced on the ballot by Nicholas Scutari, a Union County freeholder.
In 2018, a Superior Court Judge allowed North Arlington Republicans to nominate a new candidate for mayor after incumbent Joseph Bianchi died on October 10.
At the time of the mayor’s death, vote-by-mail ballots had already gone out. A court challenge over the switch wasn’t resolved until the third week in October.