The Montclair Municipal Election Review Commission has planned a public forum on Wed. Feb. 22, Ash Wednesday, to allow the public to chime in on the manner of whether to move municipal elections to November. The meeting will be televised.
The panel has been considering whether November elections would increase voter participation, whether elections for higher office would overshadow the municipal races, and whether a new ballot design make it difficult for voters to locate and vote for specific candidates.
The commission’s meeting last night began with a discussion of a the November 2011 municipal election in Hillside in Union County, which had an “astronomical” turnout there for municipal council seats, according to commission chairman Bill Harris. “I think it goes to show if you get things contested . . . I mean, the municipal race was driving the turnout rather than the [legislative] and freeholder races,” he said. “There were party influences at play, but that occurs elsewhere, and you don’t hit that level off turnout.” Hillside, which has nonpartisan municipal elections, held at-large council and mayoral elections in May 2009 and ward council elections in November 2011.
Last fall, Montclair Mayor Jerry Fried led a contentious, and ultimately flawed, petition drive to put a referendum on the November ballot asking voters whether to change the elections from May to November.