Township voids Vote Montclair election date change referendum effort

On Friday we received a letter via email from Township Attorney Ira Karasick that Township Clerk Angelese Bermúdez-Nieves must reject Vote Montclair’s petition for a referendum on moving our quadrennial municipal elections from May to November. In his letter Karasick enumerated five deficiencies in the petition, most notably an allegedly fatal flaw involving the moving up of the next election to November 2023 from May 2024.

Before the petition was circulated Karasick reviewed its contents and made suggestions to our attorney, which were incorporated into the version that was ultimately circulated. He declined to raise any objections then or during the period in which almost 1,000 Montclair voters signed it.

Given this, one of two things happened. The first is that Karasick didn’t know about this allegedly incurable flaw until it was brought to his attention, likely by individuals who wished to halt the effort, which raises questions of both competence and fairness. The second is that he did know, and by withholding information was from the start playing “gotcha,” in a cynical effort to derail a grass roots initiative aimed at improving voter turnout. We see no third explanation.

We also note that we were told of Karasick’s decision, before we received our email, by a Montclair resident who is neither a Township employee nor an elected official, and who had no reason to have knowledge of the letter or its contents. A member of the local press also contacted us the day before Karasick’s letter was sent to the petitioners. 

We submitted our petition, which gathered 989 signatures in a matter of days, because changing the election from May to November will significantly increase voter participation, while saving the Township roughly $100,000 per election cycle. We cannot help but believe that “politics,” as opposed to actual and ethically determined legal problems, are the real story here. 

In the days ahead we will carefully review Karasick’s letter and determine our future course of action.

Committee of Petitioners: Debra Caplan, Joshua Katz, Clifford Kulwin, Obdulia Miranda-Woodley, Amber Reed

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