Thursday, November 14, 2013

The New Jersey Democratic Party v. Samson case brief

The New Jersey Democratic Party v. Samson case brief summary
175 N.J. 178, 814 A.2d 1028 (2002)

CASE SYNOPSIS: After the Superior Court, Law Division, Middlesex County (New Jersey), stayed printing of further ballots, the court certified to itself an action by plaintiff political party and an unnamed candidate seeking an injunction to compel defendant election officials and opposing candidates to allow it to substitute the unnamed candidate's name for that of a United States senatorial candidate who had withdrawn.

CASE FACTS: N.J. Stat. Ann. § 19:13-20 provided an absolute right, if a candidate withdrew up until 51 days before an election, for the candidate's party to replace him or her, provided it did so by 48 days before the election. An incumbent United States senator withdrew his re-election bid after these deadlines had passed, and his party sought to replace him.

  • The high court looked to New Jersey's traditional approach to the construction of election laws, of which the legislature was presumed to have been aware. 
  • The tradition was broad construction, making every allowance for providing voters with a range of choices, and recognizing the practical importance of the two-party system in making those choices. 
  • Since the evidence indicated that it was still practicable to produce, distribute, and return revised ballots in time for the election, the court construed the statutory language as directory, not mandatory, that is, the right of substitution was guaranteed within the window; after it closed, every effort would still be made to protect voters' rights to choose.
CONCLUSION: The court, which had already by order granted the injunctive relief sought, issued an opinion explaining the reasons for its action.

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