Community Choice Aggregation
As previously covered, some members of the community have been working on a program call Community Choice Aggregation (“CCA”). The program uses credits from renewable energy providers elsewhere to “transfer” that energy (via credits) to our area.
The net result is that energy is purchased at lower rates (through aggregating demand). The program has positives and negatives (which I’ve covered in the post linked here.
On July 15, 2021 the petitioners submitted their petitions (with an enclosed ordinance to be proposed for the ballot).
The clerk issued a response, which can be found here:
Unlike the One Town, One Vote petition, the CCA petitioners do both
- enclose the required ordinance and
- cite the correct Statute for initiating a petition (N.J.S.A. 40:69A-184 ).
Why was the petition rejected?
Among the reasons for rejection:
- The petition did not contain the requisite number of signatures.
There’s little the clerk can do if you don’t supply the signatures required.
- The petition contained electronic signatures which were not authorized to be accepted.
Due to the pandemic, Governor Murphy issued a series of Executive Orders. Among them was EO 132 which allowed petitions such as an initiative or referendum to be accepted by a municipal clerk in electronic form. EO 132 was further modified by EO 216 which extended the rule through the end of the Public Health Emergency.
On June 4th, Governor Murphy announced EO 244, which ended the public health emergency. Had nothing else happened, the authorization that permitted a municipal clerk to accept an electronic petition would have ended that moment. However, the Legislature enacted P.L. 2021, CHAPTER 103, (approved June 4, 2021) which extended the EO 216’s operation for 30 days.
Petitioners were noticed and should have been aware that the authorization for acceptance of electronic signatures ended on June 4th. They also should have been aware the extension for such authorization was extended 30 days past June 4th. That would enable the clerk to be authorized to accept electronic petitions (assuming they were in the proper form) only until Sunday, July 4th. Being generous and giving them an extra day until Monday, July 5th, they missed the deadline by 10 days, having only submitted the petition on July 15th. Without express authorization by Statute or Executive Order, the clerk is not authorized by statute to accept the petitions.
The Cure Period
As indicated in the clerk’s notice, “[p]ursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:69A-188, the Committee may amend the Petition at any time within ten days from this Notice of Insufficiency.”
How many more signatures are required?
The following signatures were submitted
- Electronic: 614 total (52 contained deficiencies as listed below):
- 1 was deficient for not being fully completed (e.g. missing printed name, address, signature)
- 8 were deficient for providing information not corresponding with voter registration information (e.g. name, address)
- 32 were deficient for not being registered voters or not being registered voters in Teaneck
- 11 were deficient for being duplicates
- Hard copy: 263 (76 contained deficiencies as listed below):
- 2 were deficient for not being fully completed (e.g. missing printed name, address, signature);
- 50 were deficient for providing information not corresponding with voter registration information (e.g. name, address
- 17 were deficient for not being registered voters or not being registered voters in Teaneck
- 3 were deficient for being duplicates;
- 4 were deficient for being illegible
As electronic petitions are not permitted, the balance of valid handwritten signatures stands at: 187
How many signatures are required to have an ordinance placed on the ballot?
As indicated in the clerk’s response:
“There exists a legitimate question of what the statute means by the “total number of votes cast” but giving the statute the most liberal reading possible, the best reading for the Committee would be based on the total number of voters who voted at the last election at which members of the General Assembly were elected in Teaneck, which figure was 7908. Thus, the total number of signatures required to submit an initiated ordinance pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40A:69A-184 is 10% of 7908 or 791 signatures.”
As 187 is below the threshold level of 791, the petition was found deficient. Petitioners may amend and cure deficiencies within 10 days of being notified.
A statement by Paula Rogovin, one of the Petitioners appears below:
Further explanation regarding electronic signatures for petitions
What does the Executive Order authorize?
EO 216 says in relevant part:
1. “The… municipal clerks… shall allow for any… initiative, referendum, or other petition required to be filed prior to an election to be submitted by hand delivery and
2. The… municipal clerks… shall accept petitions with hand-written signatures and signatures collected via an online form created by the Secretary of State.
4. The requirements of N.J.S.A. 19:23-7, N.J.S.A. 19:23-15, and N.J.S.A. 19:13-8 that a candidate provide a notarized oath of allegiance shall be in effect regardless of whether a petition is submitted by hand delivery or electronically.
9. This order shall take effect immediately and shall apply to any petition that is due or may be submitted during the Public Health Emergency, first declared in Executive Order No. 103 (2020).
Clerk’s may only do what they are authorized to do by Statute. Here, the EO (132, supplemented by 216) authorized the clerk to allow for any initiative to be submitted (paragraph #1) on a form created by the Sec. of State (paragraph #2) with the necessary oaths (paragraph #4) and applied to any petition that was due or submitted during the Public Health Emergency (which ended via EO 244 on June 4, 2021).
Once EO 216 ended, paragraph #9 meant that the public health emergency no longer allowed clerks to accept submitted electronic petitions. But, they got a 30 day extension, via legislation. That extension was on notice to the public (including petitioners).
Therefore, after the 30 days extension elapsed (on July 5th, 2021), the authorization to accept the petitions ceased and the clerk was precluded from doing so.
To be clear: the clerk was not authorized, absent express authorization to accept electronic signatures. It did not exist on July 15th.