TRENTON, N.J. – Former Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino resigned amidst controversy in September, triggering a special election last November to fill the three-year position. Had his resignation become effective days later, on October 5, Gov. Phil Murphy would have appointed an interim sheriff until an election for a full term in November 2019.
Bipartisan legislation, advanced today by the Assembly State and Local Government Committee, requires a vacancy occurring less than 70 days before a general election be filled by voters at the second succeeding general election. Sponsored by Assemblyman Christopher P. DePhillips and Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, the bill (A4675) aligns the timeline for replacing vacancies in county sheriff, surrogate and clerk offices with other public offices.
“Nobody was prepared for an election of that magnitude on such short notice,” said DePhillips (R-Bergen) about the special Bergen County election. “It isn’t fair to residents. Our bill is a better solution to short, hasty – and unnecessary – races.”
Current law requires some county vacancies, including sheriff, occurring more than 37 days before a general election to be filled at that election.
The DePhillips, Schepisi bill establishes uniformity in election laws and complies with the law to send vote-by-mail ballots to voters at least 45 days before the general election.
“The 37 day drop-out is antiquated and impractical,” said Schepisi (R-Bergen). “It doesn’t work when counties must print and mail tens of thousands of vote-by-mail ballots. It makes sense to create consistency across the board in the administration of the election process. The sheriff’s departure exposed a flaw in the system, and this legislation corrects that problem.”