HOBOKEN - A group of politically involved residents is collecting petitions in Hoboken for a referendum that would ask the voters if they think municipal elections should be held in May or November.
The City Council recently narrowly voted to move council and mayoral elections from May to November to align Hoboken's elections with election days for higher offices. Hoboken's elections would remain non-partisan, meaning that no council or mayoral candidate could be in the same column with a Democrat or a Republican running for higher office on the ballot.
Allies of Mayor Dawn Zimmer voted in favor of the move earlier this month, while her four opponents on the nine-member council voted against moving the elections.
Signatures were being gathered at the St. Ann's Feast last weekend for a referendum to let the public vote on the matter.
In order to place an item on the ballot for referendum, a committee of petitioners must gather signatures of registered voters in the city equal to at least 15 percent of the total election turnout in the municipality from the last general Assembly election. The petitioners need approximately 2,100 signatures.
The members of the petitioner's committee include Jamie Cryan, the chairman of the Hoboken Democratic Committee, Franz Paetzold, a former council candidate, and Frank Raia, a former mayoral candidate and school board member. The other two members of the petitioners committee are Jennifer Kleinman and Jennifer Wadsworth.
Councilman Ravinder Bhalla, the sponsor of the legislation, has said moving elections to November would increase voter turnout in the city.
Councilman Michael Russo, who voted against the change, first asked his council colleagues on July 20 to vote on legislation that would put the change on the ballot instead of just allowing the council to vote on moving elections. His measure was voted down 5-4.
The change also allows all nine council candidates and the mayor to receive a one-time six-month extension of their terms, as the next mayoral and council election would be in November 2013 instead of May 2013. The one time extension is permitted by state law.
According to a local report, one member of the petitioner's committee said they were gathering signatures because they think the change is "too big of a decision" for the council to make on their own.
The petitioners have until Aug. 12 to submit the signatures to the clerk's office, according to the report. If the petitioners gather enough signatures but some signatures are deficient, the committee will receive a 10-day extension to rectify the problems of the petition, as per state law.
The issue has quickly become political among insiders in Hoboken. Zimmer's allies are often perceived to appeal to the newer residents of the city, who may be inclined to come out and vote in November when polls are open to select a governor, instead of in May when council candidates run on their own. Zimmer's opponents have a solid base of voters that will likely come out to vote whenever the elections are held. - Ray Smith