Laws governing local ballot measures in New Jersey
|New Jersey Constitution|
|Preamble • I • II • III • IV • V • VI • VII • VIII • IX • X • XI|
This article sets out the laws governing local ballot measures in New Jersey. It explains:
- Which local units of government make the initiative process available to residents.
- How and whether local units of government, including school districts, can refer local ballot measures (such as school bond propositions) to the ballot.
- An overview of laws governing local recall elections.
Types of local government
Local government in New Jersey consists of:
- Counties, of which there are 21
- Municipalities, of which there are 566. Municipalities are classified under state law as either: Township, Borough, City, Town, or Village
- In addition, there are 234 special districts and 523 independent school districts.
"In New Jersey, borough, city, town, village, and township governments have similar powers and perform similar functions. All areas of the state are encompassed by township governments except areas within the boundaries of a borough, city, town, or village."
The U.S. Census Bureau's 2012 study of local governments shows that, as of September of 2012, New Jersey had:
- 21 county governments.
- 242 township governments.
- 324 other municipal governments (boroughs, cities, towns, and villages).
Counties: 6 of the 21 counties operate under the Optional County Charter Law (Atlantic, Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Mercer and Union)
Each of the five types of municipalities may operate under the unique form of government historically associated with it, or under one of the following optional forms of government provided by state statute:
- Commission, of which there are 32
- Council Manager Act of 1923, of which there are 7
- Optional Municipal Charter Law, of which there are 129
- or a Special Charter granted by the state legislature, of which there are 11. 
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- To approve a school district's annual budget which is mandated for all districts.
- To issue bonds for new construction and capital improvements.
- If a school district has an excess levy.
Local recall rules
The recall amendment applies to all elective officers after the first year of the term for which the incumbent was elected. The New Jersey Recall Amendment specifically authorizes the recall of members of New Jersey's U.S. Congressional delegation.
The section of the New Jersey Constitution that authorizes recall says:
- "The people reserve unto themselves the power to recall, after at least one year of service, any elected official in this State or representing this State in the United States Congress. The Legislature shall enact laws to provide for such recall elections. Any such laws shall include a provision that a recall election shall be held upon petition of at least 25% of the registered voters in the electoral district of the official sought to be recalled. If legislation to implement this constitutional amendment is not enacted within one year of the adoption of the amendment, the Secretary of State shall, by regulation, implement the constitutional amendment, except that regulations adopted by the Secretary of State shall be superseded by any subsequent legislation consistent with this constitutional amendment governing recall elections. The sufficiency of any statement of reasons or grounds procedurally required shall be a political rather than a judicial question."
- For additional detail, see: Laws governing recall in New Jersey
Initiative process availability
The local units of government in New Jersey that make the initiative process available are:
- Counties operating under the optional county charter law have state specified initiative and referendum. There are 6 such counties (Atlantic, Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Mercer and Union).
- Municipalities operating under the optional municipal charter law (129) or commission form of government (32) have state specified initiative and referendum procedures. A list of these 161 municipalities is provided below in the external links, "Initiative and Referendum in New Jersey’s Counties and Municipalities".
- 3 of the 11 municipalities with special act charters provide for local initiative and referendum in the charter (Middletown Township, Montville Township, and Plainfield City). These charters were special acts of the legislature.
- In addition, Tenafly Borough, which generally operates under the borough form of government, has provided its voters with the powers of initiative and referendum pursuant to a local law specifically enacted to provide those powers. 
| Ballot Law Portal|
|Laws Governing Ballot Measures|
Article IV, Sections VII, Paragraph 10 grants municipal governing bodies the power to petition the legislature for special act charters. The charter may be constructed to include initiative and referendum. Other than this section regarding special act charters, the New Jersey Constitution makes no references to local initiative and referendum.
Cities operating under the optional municipal charter law have mandated initiative and referendum through N.J.S.A. 40:69A-1 and the following articles.
Cities with a commission form of government have mandated initiative and referendum through N.J.S.A. 40:70-1 and the following articles.
Counties operating under the “Optional County Charter Law,” have mandated initiative and referendum through N.J.S.A. 40:41A-1 and the following articles.
Initiative process features for cities operating under the "Optional Municipal Charter Law"
|A guide to local ballot initiatives|
For details on process features see New Jersey Statutes 40:69A-184 and the following articles.
Initiative process features for cities with a commission form of government
For details on process features see New Jersey Statutes 40:74-5 and the following articles.
Initiative process in the top 10 most populated cities
|Local I&R Laws in the 50 States|
|Source:Local Ballot Initiatives: How citizens change laws with |
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|List of Most Populated Cities in New Jersey|
|City||Population||City Type||Next election|
|Newark||277,540||Optional Municipal Charter Law||11/5/2013|
|Jersey City||250,323||Optional Municipal Charter Law||11/5/2013|
|Paterson||146,427||Optional Municipal Charter Law||11/5/2013|
|Elizabeth||125,660||Optional Municipal Charter Law||11/5/2013|
|Trenton||84,899||Optional Municipal Charter Law||11/5/2013|
|Clifton||84,269||Council-Manager Act||No I&R|
|Camden||77,283||Optional Municipal Charter Law||11/5/2013|
|Passaic||69,893||Optional Municipal Charter Law||11/5/2013|
|Union City||67,187||Optional Municipal Charter Law||11/5/2013|
|East Orange||64,365||General law city||No I&R|
- Research document of New Jersey local I&R laws
- New Jersey league of cities
- Initiative and Referendum in New Jersey’s Counties and Municipalities
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 The U.S. Census Bureau's 2012 study of local governments
- ↑ U.S. Census Bureau's Report, "Governments--Individual State Descriptions", 2007
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Initiative and Referendum in New Jersey’s Counties and Municipalities
- ↑ New Jersey State League of Municipalities, Types and forms of government
- ↑ Ballotpedia: Types and #'s of local government by state
- ↑ New Jersey Statutes Title 40
- ↑ New Jersey Statutes 40:69A-184
- ↑ New Jersey Statutes 40:74-5
- ↑ US Census Bureau "City and Town Totals: Vintage 2011 (Population figures as of 2011 Census estimates)
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 10.6 10.7 10.8 10.9 US Census, Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places in New Jersey: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2011