Hudson County towns could move non-partisan elections to November

Hudson County towns could move non-partisan elections to November

Publication: The Jersey Journal
Date: January 08, 2010

Hudson County municipalities could get a chance to move non-partisan elections from May to November. Jersey City and Hoboken councilmen plan to introduce ordinances that would move the May non-partisan elections in those cities to November.

The Assembly approved a measure that would allow such a move yesterday sending it to the governor's desk to be signed into law. The Senate unanimously approved it Dec. 10. The Assembly voted 49 to 25 with two abstentions.

Assemblyman L. Harvey Smith, D-Jersey City, who is leaving office, was the sole Hudson County Assemblyman to support the measure.

The legislation impacts 86 of the state's 566 municipalities, including Jersey City, Union City, North Bergen, Bayonne, Hoboken, West New York and Weehawken.

For smaller municipalities cutting out an election could save about $25,000 annually officials have said. But for larger cities like Newark or Jersey City, it could save as much as $1 million.

Jersey City Ward E Councilman Steven Fulop said there’s another advantage, increased voter participation.

“It is challenging to get the people to come out for each election, when they are held at incongruent times,” he said in a statement. “We should move the elections to the people. I have been watching this legislation for the past year and believe it could fundamentally change how cities like mine are run.”

Fulop plans to introduce an ordinance at next week’s meeting.

Hoboken At-Large Councilman Ravi Bhalla plans to introduce an ordinance at the City Council’s Jan. 20 meeting.

Bhalla said Hoboken spent about $160,000 for the May and June elections last year.

“If the city had held the local municipal election on the same day as the general election it would have saved our city thousands of dollars,” he said.

But not everyone supports the measure

State Senators Brian Stack, mayor of Union City and Nicholas Sacco, North Bergen’s mayor, voted in favor of the legislation but said they don’t think it will work in their municipalities.

Sacco said he wanted to give municipalities that are interested the option to move their election.

“It was really meant for small communities because it could potentially work there because their ballot wouldn’t be as convoluted as some of the larger communities,” Sacco said. “The problem with the bill is it mixes partisan with non-partisan.”

Another issue — something several Assembly members objected to — is a clause that force a municipality that moves its election to keep it in November for 10 years.

Assemblywoman Joan Quigley, D-Jersey City, said she supported an initial version of the bill that would have only applied to small towns and didn’t include the 10-year provision.

She said unfortunately the changes were pushed through during lame duck without Assembly members getting a chance to argue for their version of the bill.

“I don’t think it’s adequate for Newark and Jersey City and Patterson,” she said. “I believe it makes the ballot unworkable and the process confusing.”

Sal Vega, mayor of West New York, said he’s also opposed to moving the election.

“I think it’s important to separate the municipal election from the general election because it makes people focus on the local issues,” he said.

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