Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver said the state is not currently intending to postpone or cancel a change-of-government referendum in Atlantic City to protect against the threat posed by COVID-19.
“As we just saw last week in five national elections, that none of those states shut down elections, including the state of Washington, which is probably the biggest cluster in the country,” Oliver said. “I don’t anticipate shutting down the vote on the 31st of March.”
Washington has reported more deaths than New Jersey has presumptive positive cases of the novel coronavirus.
The number of presumptive positive cases in New Jersey rose to 29 on Thursday, while 30 have died from the virus in the Evergreen State.
If passed, the Atlantic City referendum would cut the number of seats on the city’s council from nine to five and replace the mayor’s seat with a council-appointed city manager.
While Oliver, who is also commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs, Atlantic City’s state monitor, said she did not foresee cancelling the vote, she declined to rule out the possibility.
“As the commissioner has indicated, we are hour-by-hour, day-by-day, taking a look at what happens,” Oliver said, referring to Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli. “If it has to come to that, we’ll have to consult with the attorney general, a number of different entities within the state government to determine what will happen, but as of today, we have not advised Atlantic City to shut down that referendum.”
Gov. Phil Murphy on Thursday issued a recommendation that private events hosting more than 250 people be cancelled to blunt the spread of COVID, though that action does not mandate any activity.
Oliver and State Police Superintendent Pat Callahan said the state could eventually mandate a ban on such events under the emergency powers granted to Murphy, though they indicated the time for that hasn’t yet come.
Such a ban is in effect in Washington state.