Jersey City accepting electronic signatures for municipal elections while Hoboken is not

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Jersey City is accepting electronic signatures on nominating petitions while neighboring Hoboken is not: how is that possible?

A screenshot of the beginning of an E-petition from jcnj.org.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

The City of Jersey City has been promoting electronic petitions on their social media pages for the last couple of weeks, providing details on their official website.

In short, candidates must download a petition form, fill out their name, address, and office they’re seeking before saving the completed petition form to their computer.

The petition must then be circulation to the individual(s) they want to sign it, who must then sign and email back to the clerk and an email address corresponding to each individual office – noting that petitions emailed directly by candidates won’t be accepted.

The clerk’s office indicates that Gov. Phil Murphy allowed this via Executive Order 216, which allowed both electronic and paper petitions to be circulated for the June 8th primary.

While Murphy never rescinded this order, it did not explicitly say anything about the November 2nd general election or corresponding municipal elections.

The Hudson County Clerk’s Office deferred comment to the municipal clerk’s offices, where Jersey City said to review the city website, while Hoboken said it was up to the clerk’s discretion.

Scott Salmon, a well-known election law attorney who is a partner at the law firm Jardim, Meisner & Susser, P.C., said he didn’t think clerks can accept e-signatures via email, though the subject isn’t an open and shut case.

“There is an open dispute as to whether signatures acquired before July 4 should be accepted after that day. I believe they should be, but there are some lawsuits over this issue now,” he explained.

“I don’t believe the clerks can accept electronic signatures electronically (i.e., e-mailed to them), but if they want to accept them via hard copy (i.e., printed out and delivered), I believe they can do so. But there’s no obligation that I’m aware of to accept them, so I think both towns can be considered ‘correct.'”

The filing deadline was today at 4 p.m., with the mayoralty and all nine council seats being contested in Jersey City, while the mayor won’t face a challenge in Hoboken – though the three at-large council up for grabs could be a spirited race.

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