UPDATE: We’ve launched an official petition to change the date of Montclair’s municipal elections, which you can see and sign here.
Along with Montclair’s unelected Board of Education, the Township’s practice of holding “off-cycle” municipal elections in May rather than November represents an increasingly anomalous democratic deficit, with voter turnout and engagement unrepresentative of the town’s civic spirit.
Put bluntly, Montclair is a town of famously politically-aware and active people who don’t bother to vote or participate in their own community’s local elections. Over the last three municipal elections voter turnout averaged under 25%, and in one of those elections all but one of the seven candidates up for election ran unopposed.
And this is in large part due to the soft form of voter suppression inherent in purposely holding elections when voters are unlikely to turn out.
Why is turnout so pitifully low in Montclair’s local elections? It’s largely just a matter of timing.
A common misconception is that Montclair is obliged to hold its municipal elections in May in order to retain their nonpartisan character. But as outlined in this piece in the Montclair Local, a 2010 state law now allows municipalities to hold nonpartisan elections in November as well. And most have since made the switch, increasing voter turnout and engagement, as well as enjoying saving significant financial savings that can be used on other municipal needs. Meanwhile, by moving elections to the November prior to presidential election years, when only state legislative seats are being contested, such a change would serve to highlight both local and less-publicized statewide races.
As with the campaign to make Montclair’s Board of Education elected rather than appointed, moving our municipal elections from May to November requires a petition drive followed by the consent of a majority of voters in the upcoming general election. We have just launched such a petition, which registered voters can quickly sign by clicking the below button.
If you’d like to be a part of our municipal election reform initiative we’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can leave your email below to get notified on related developments.