On Monday, Dr. Quentin Kidd explained the origins of Virginia’s “off-off year” elections. Of course, Virginia is not the only state with this peculiar tradition. New Jersey has also held off-off year elections since 1947, due to a similar quirk of the electoral calendar.
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.
Although the New Jersey constitution gives the legislature the power to change election day by law, New Jersey maintains its tradition of off-off year elections, and there are no indications that the legislature will change this tradition anytime soon.
Anthony Balady is a student at William and Mary Law School and a member of State of Election’s editorial board.