New Jersey's highest court will review Gov. Chris Christie's decision to hold a special election for U.S. Senate in mid-October, three weeks before his own gubernatorial election, a lawyer in the case told The Associated Press on Friday.
Peg Schaffer, a lawyer for the group of Democrats who sued over the date, said state Supreme Court agreed to take the case. The court was expected to issue its order later in the day.
The court took the unusual step of waiving the application process and agreed to consider the case immediately. Plaintiffs will have until Monday morning to submit briefs. The governor's office will then have 24 hours to respond.
No oral arguments will be heard. The court could rule at any time after reply briefs are filed.
An appeals court ruled Thursday that the governor was within his authority to schedule the special election for on Oct. 16 to replace Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who died June 3. The winner of the election will serve for the remaining year of Lautenberg's term.
Days after Lautenberg's death, Christie named his attorney general, Jeff Chiesa, to fill the seat until special election could be held. He set party primaries for Aug. 13 and a special election for Oct. 16, at a cost of $12 million per election.
Christie, who will be on the ballot Nov. 5, said the residents of New Jersey deserve to have an elected senator representing their interests in Washington as soon as possible. Critics insist that the governor, who is striving to put up big numbers in his re-election bid, does not want to drive up Democratic turnout by having a U.S. Senate race, possibly with Newark's prominent mayor, Cory Booker, at the top of the ballot.
Four Democrats and two Republicans have filed petitions to run in the Senate race, with three early polls showing Booker as the front-runner.
A group of Democrats, backed by government watchdog groups and a coalition of minority political organizations, sued, saying it should be held Nov. 5, the day voters are going to the polls anyway.
Judge Jane Grall wrote Thursday that objections to the costs of the election are policy matters that aren't questions for the court.
“The question for us is whether the date selected is in violation of the law or Constitution, and we conclude that it is not,” she wrote.
The three-judge panel also looked into a concern that there would not be enough time to prepare voting machines for a second election so soon after the October vote but yielded to the Christie administration's judgment on that issue.
Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak said the appellate court ruling was expected.
“Governor Christie followed the law as established by the legislature and ensured New Jersey voters would have a voice and a choice _ in both a primary and general election-in selecting the next U.S. senator,” Drewniak said in an email. “That's what the law provides and the way it should be.”
The court ruled less than a week after the objection was filed and without taking oral arguments.
Schaffer is also chairwoman of the Somerset County Democratic Party.