Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ex Post Facto: Why Do New Jersey and Virginia Have Those Off-Off Year Elections Anyway?

It turns out that in both cases, it was a function of the fact that both had constitutional conventions to draft new guidelines for governing each state. That, in turn, disrupted the timing of gubernatorial elections.

In New Jersey:
Prior to the adoption of the modern New Jersey Constitution, New Jersey governors served three year terms, with the last gubernatorial election under the old constitution occurring in 1946. In 1947, the legislature proposed a constitutional convention which was voted on as a referendum and approved by a majority of voters. The new constitution was ratified in 1947, and among many other changes, extended the governor’s term to four years. This extension, however, did not apply to the current governor’s (Alfred Driscoll) term, who had been elected under the old constitution. So, Driscoll’s first term, which had begun in 1947, ended in 1950. When Driscoll ran for reelection, the term limits of the new constitution applied, so Driscoll’s second term lasted for four years. The election to replace Driscoll occurred in November of 1953, and thanks to the new four year terms, every New Jersey gubernatorial election from then on naturally fell on an off-off year.
And in Virginia:

In March 1851, while the constitutional convention was meeting, the Virginia General Assembly elected a new governor, as it had for the past 75 years for a three-year term. The newly elected governor Joseph Johnson was to take office on January 1, 1852, but in the ensuing months Virginia voters approved the new constitution which among other things expanded suffrage to all white male citizens 21 years or older who had been residents for at least two year and required the governor to be popularly elected to a four-year term. The constitution also prohibited the governor from serving successive terms, a prohibition that is still in place today.

Soon after the new constitution was adopted Democrats met in convention in Staunton and nominated Johnson to run for governor. The first popular election for governor was held on December 8, 1851, but the results of the election were not certified until January 15, 1852. Not wanting to leave the Commonwealth without a chief executive, Johnson assumed the governor’s office on January 1, 1852 by rights of his having been elected by the General Assembly the previous March. On January 15, after the results of the election were certified, he was declared the winner of the first popular election for governor in the Commonwealth’s history and assumed the office on that basis on January 16. A series of unelected military governors during Reconstruction shifted the election cycle from one-year before presidential elections on the odd year to one-year after presidential elections on the odd year, and that pattern has remained ever since.

This is interesting material from a new blog from the Society for Election Law at William & Mary. They just opened up shop on Monday, but this promises to be a site worth checking in the future. Click on the state links above to read the full entries on both New Jersey and Virginia. There's much more to the Virginia post.

Recent Posts:
GOP Temporary Delegate Selection Committee Meeting Today

Obama v. Palin in 2012? One Forecast is Already In

St. Cloud St. Poll: Obama leads Pawlenty in 2012 Horserace in MN

No comments: