More NJ Calls for Initiative & Referendum

Mon, Nov 10 2014 by Neal Hobson

Last week’s elections allowed voters across the country to decide issues important to them. But not in New Jersey, a state that lacks any process for citizens to petition initiatives onto the ballot or to refer laws passed by the state legislature to voters.

Jersey citizens are on the outside looking in at states that allow direct democracy, i.e. citizen-initiated measures. That might be one reason that less than one in three Garden State citizens turned out to vote in the mid-term election – setting an all-time record low.

“It is long past time to enact reforms that will make the Election Day playing fields more level and will give citizens reason to believe that their vote is worth casting,” said a recent Asbury Park Press editorial. The paper then called for creating a statewide process of initiative and referendum, noting that, “Citizens should be given the opportunity to determine statewide policies on issues that affect them.”

Despite campaign promises of I&R enactment by many legislators, past and present, and also by current Governor Chris Cristie, those promises have seemingly been forgotten after those politicians were elected.

Several Garden State legislators have proposed a constitutional amendment, Assembly Concurrent Resolution 67 (ACR 67), to establish initiative and referendum in the state. Unfortunately, soon after ACR 67’s introduction in January of 2014, the bill was referred to the Assembly Judiciary Committee, where it has not been heard from since.

ACR 67 would give citizens a year to collect signatures equal to 6% of the statewide votes for governor in the last gubernatorial election in order to put a new law or referral of any legislative measure on the ballot. Likewise for a constitutional amendment, although the signature requirement would be 10% rather than 6%, and both would be subject to regional distribution requirements as well.  Once a petition is validated, the legislature would have two months to produce a similar law or amendment. Failing that, the issue would be placed on the general election ballot.

Citizens in Charge has endorsed passage of ACR 67. N.J. voters are left to envy states with initiative and referendum

Asbury Park Press: Reforms needed to curb voter apathy