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Activist Paul Rogovin watches a New Jersey Superior Court hearing on a referendum for renewable energy in Teaneck on September 13, 2021. (Photo: NJ Globe).

Teaneck renewable energy referendum ordered onto the ballot

By Joey Fox, September 13 2021 4:30 pm

Superior Court Judge Robert C. Wilson has ordered that a referendum establishing a renewable energy credit system be placed on the November ballot, marking the second court loss for Acting Township Clerk Doug Ruccione today.

In August, Ruccione rejected the referendum petition on the basis of insufficient signatures, stating that hundreds of electronic signatures gathered under Gov. Phil Murphy’s order allowing for electronic signature collection were invalid because they had been submitted after the order had expired on July 4.

Wilson disagreed with Ruccione’s reasoning, however, and argued that laws should be interpreted in such a way that gives petitioners the benefit of the doubt.

“New Jersey courts have constantly maintained that election laws, and specifically the right of initiative and referendum, are to be construed liberally, and courts’ task should be to discern the intent,” Wilson said.

Because of the ruling, Teaneck voters will now have the opportunity to vote this November on whether Teaneck should establish a program called Community Choice Aggregation. If the referendum is passed, the township would, in the petition’s words, “purchase renewable electricity at discounted bulk rates and provide customers within its jurisdiction an opportunity to select a 100% renewable electricity alternative by 2030.”

Voters in Teaneck will also be able to vote in a separate referendum which Wilson ordered onto the ballot this morning, concerning moving nonpartisan local elections from May to November.

Given the proximity of today’s cases to the November general election, there were some concerns that the printing and distribution of ballots might be disrupted, but Bergen County will now be able to proceed with its elections administration on schedule.

This story was updated at 4:47 p.m. after an appellate court denied a request for a stay in the local elections case.

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