In New Jersey
, the Boards of Chosen Freeholders
are the county legislature
in each of that state's 21 counties
New Jersey's system of naming county legislators "freeholders" is unique in the United States. The origin of the term was in the provisions of the New Jersey State Constitution
of 1776, which stated:
Since property in "clear estate" is known as a freehold, the logical designation of such officeholders would be "Chosen (i.e. Elected) Freeholders".
Today, state law specifies that the Boards may contain between three and nine seats. Due to the small sizes of the boards and the possibility of electing an exactly split legislature with the inevitably resulting deadlock
, an odd-numbered board is required.
The means of election of the Freeholders varies from all elected in districts to all elected at large to various systems in between. Elections are first past the post
for single-member districts, and for at-large elections when only one seat is at stake. For at-large elections with more than one seat, plurality-at-large voting
Depending on the county, the executive and legislative functions may be performed by the Board or split. In some counties, members of the Board of Chosen Freeholders perform both legislative and executive functions on a commission basis, with each Freeholder assigned responsibility for a department or group of departments. In other counties (Atlantic