By Art Gallagher
Congressman Frank Pallone is Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. That makes him one of the most powerful Members of Congress.
The Chairmanship would naturally change hands if Republicans take control of the House. But even if Democrats retain the House, Pallone could lose his coveted position of power due to Governor Murphy’s paper ballot election.
Under New Jersey law, according to David Wildstein who knows more about New Jersey government and politics than any academic, the Secretary of State can’t certifying elections before every race is decided. That means that, even though Pallone is likely to be reelected easily and that former Vice President Biden is expected to win NJ’s votes in the Electoral College, their elections will not be certified if, for example, the paper ballots in the 7th District congressional race between State Senator Tom Kean, Jr and Congressman Tom Malinowski is still being counted, recounted, challenged or results in a tie come January.
If the Kean-Malinowski race is not decided before December 14 when the Electoral College meets to officially elect the President and Vice President, New Jersey will not be represented.
If Kean-Malinowski is not decided on January 3 when the 117th Congress is sworn in Pallone, and the rest of the NJ delegation will not be sworn in. Not only could Pallone lose his Chairmanship because he won’t be a Member of Congress, he could lose seniority and his paycheck.
That wouldn’t prevent Rep Chris Smith from becoming Speaker and Acting President because there is no constitutional requirement that the Speaker be an incumbent Member of the House.
It is not far fetched, thanks to Governor Murphy’s decree that New Jersey voters cast their ballots on paper instead of via electronic voting machine, that one of more of the state’s races are still being counted, recounted or challenged in January.
It took more than a month for New Jersey election officials to count and certify the 1.47 million paper ballots cast in the July 7 primaries. 3,957,303 votes were cast in NJ in 2016 general election. This year will probably top 4,000,000 votes with paper ballots counted by hand and scanner. What could go wrong with Murphy’s Law?
The congressional races in districts 2, 3, and 7 are expected to be close. Upsets could happen in 5 and 11. The partisan balance of the House of Representatives could depend on the outcomes of those races.
Murphy could significantly reduce the likelihood of this nightmare scenario occurring if he allowed voters to cast their ballots on electronic machines.
Who would pay Bonnie Watson-Coleman and Bill Pascrell’s unemployment claims? DC or NJ?
State Senator Declan O’Scanlon and Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso have a solution for Murphy.
Murphy could still mail a ballot to every registered voter in the state under the O’Scanlon-DiMaso plan. But voters who prefer to vote at their polling places would be allowed to cast their ballot on a machine if they brought their paper ballot with them as proof they didn’t already vote by mail.
Under Murphy’s current plan, voters who go to the polls will have to fill out a paper provisional ballot. O’Scanlon and DiMaso’s plan would eliminate that necessity for many and allow New Jersey’s votes to be counted quickly and electronically.
Given all we have been doing – with no apparent negative impact on transmission – there absolutely no justifiable reason we can’t vote in person on machines. Might have to increase salaries – w/CARES Act $ – of poll workers and adjust hours. Get it done!— Declan O’Scanlon (@declanoscanlon) September 2, 2020