Added elections will be costly

Township looking at shortage of poll workers for special elections

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By LINDA SMITH HANCHARICK
— With the passing of New Jersey's United States Sen. Frank Lautenberg last week, New Jerseyans must select a new senator. Gov. Chris Christie announced there will be two special elections this year to do that, a primary on Aug. 13 to choose candidates and a general election on Oct. 16. These two extra elections have many throughout the state more than concerned about the added cost the elections will bring, including the Clerk's Association, county and local governments. Statewide, the estimated costs for both elections is $24 million. Locally, the township is looking at an estimated $16,000 it hadn't anticipated.

"Every level of election official is questioning how to pay for this," said West Milford Township Clerk Antoinette Battaglia.

Almost immediately, opponents challenged Christie's decision. Somerset County Democratic Chairwoman Peg Schaffer filed suit to push back the election to the same day as the gubernatorial election on Nov. 6. Earlier this week, the Passaic County Democrats gave their support to the lawsuit. The special election is just 20 days before the main election in November.

The lawsuit brought by Schaffer claims the election is illegal and an attempt to suppress the vote.

Schaffer said her law firm asked for and received permission from the state appellate division to file a motion for emergent relief. She said the suit wasn't filed on behalf of the county party.

Michael Drewniak, Christie's spokesman, said the governor followed the law in setting the date.

Poll workers needed
In addition to the cost issue, Battaglia said an issue here is getting enough poll workers for four elections this year.

"It's a significant concern," she said. "We anticipate a shortage."

Poll workers must be trained through the county. They cannot be assigned without the training.

In a perfect world, West Milford would have 52 poll workers for each election, two Democrats and two Republicans in each of the 13 districts. They rarely have that, Battaglia said, but it is the goal.

Another issue is the pay. Poll workers earn $200 per day. Many of the workers are on fixed incomes, Battaglia said. Anyone who earns more than $600 in a year must receive a 1099 form from the township for tax purposes. With four elections, that would bring a poll worker's total to $800 and the need to receive the 1099.

"Some people don't want that to happen," Battaglia said.

Politics involved?
Why would there be a need for a special general election just 20 days before the original? Many have asked that question and come up with politics as the answer. Christie is running for reelection in November. Polls show he has a commanding 30 point lead over his Democratic rival, Barbara Buono. The popular Newark Mayor Cory Booker is the front runner for the Democratic nomination for the senate seat. Some theories are that Christie doesn't want to be on the same ballot as Booker, fearing that Booker could draw many more Democrats to Buono.

The governor says that's not the case at all. He said he wanted the state voters to choose their senator as soon as possible. He appointed state Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa to fill the position until the election. Chiesa is not seeking the nomination. Democrats Booker, Reps. Rush Holt and Frank Pallone and state Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver will vie for the Democratic nomination. For the Republicans, Steve Lonegan, the former mayor of Bogota, and Alieta Eck, a physician and former president of the conservative Association of American Physicians and Surgeons are going for the Republican nomination.

The victor will fill the remainder of Lautenberg's term, which ends in January, 2015. Election for a full term will be in November 2014.

What do you think about the governor's decision to hold a special election in October instead of waiting until the scheduled election in November? Go to westmilfordmessenger.com and tell us.

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