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NJ-7 Libertarian congressional candidate Clayton Pajunas. (Photo: Clayton Pajunas).

This year, just 50 signatures makes you a congressional candidate

Old law reduces petition signature requirements in half in a redistricting year

By David Wildstein, May 16 2022 4:24 pm

This year, it’s easy to run for Congress in New Jersey.

Under a fairly obscure statute, independent candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives running in a redistricting year can get on the ballot with just 50 signatures.  That’s half of the number needed for independent House candidates in the other four cycles of the decade, and one-quarter of the number of signatures a candidate needs to qualify for the primary election ballot.

The once in a decade opportunity to run for Congress with just 50 voters signing your petition doesn’t necessarily increase the size of the field.  In 2012, 29 independent candidates filed,  the same as in 2016.  There were 24 independent House candidates in 2014 and 2018, and 15 in 2020.

The law, written in 1948, came at a time when there was a mad rush to get on the ballot in redistricting years between the approval of the congressional map and the filing deadline.  In those days, the deadline for independent candidates was the same as for those running in the primary.  That was changed about 25 years ago, after minor parties filed a lawsuit.

The filing deadline is June 7.

The New Jersey Libertarian Party has recruited congressional candidates in all 12 New Jersey districts this year, but it’s still not clear how many will follow through and file petitions.

For the primary election, judges knocked six congressional candidates off the ballot for failing to get at least 200 valid signatures.

No independent candidate has been viewed as a spoiler in a New Jersey congressional race since 2000, when Rep. Rush Holt (D-Hopewell) won re-election to a second term by just 651 votes against former Rep. Richard Zimmer (R-Delaware).   In that race, 8,269 votes went to three independent candidates: Carl Mayer, a former Princeton Township Committeeman running on the Green Party ticket, received 5,811 votes, while NJ Conservative Party nominee John Desmond took 1,233 votes and 1,225 went to Worth Winslow, the Libertarian candidate.

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