A month after the successful conclusion of its effort to put schoolboard democracy on this November’s ballot, Vote Montclair has launched a petition initiative aimed at moving the Township’s quadrennial municipal elections from May to November, to increase voter turnout and engagement.
The new petition, which can be found here, would put Montclair on track to abandon a form of “soft” voter suppression that in the 2016 election saw turnout of less than 10%, with six out of seven incumbent councilmembers running unopposed. Following a 2010 change in state law that allowed for non-partisan elections in November, only Montclair and a handful of other municipalities continue the practice of holding “off-cycle” local elections.
In addition to increasing electoral turnout and participation in our local elections, advocates of the change point to other potential benefits. Under the proposed ordinance, the new cycle of municipal elections would start in November 2023, providing an opportunity to increase participation in the traditionally low-turnout quadrennial state elections that take place without a gubernatorial contest on the ballot. At the same time, consolidating the local elections with these state legislative races would save the municipality approximately $100,000 in expenses every electoral cycle.
The initiative is being overseen by a committee of petitioners that includes local voting rights advocates Clifford Kulwin and Debra Caplan. It will run online until July 5th, after which Governor Murphy’s executive order allowing for the electronic gathering of petition signatures during the COVID pandemic will expire.