I’d like to support Councilman Ravi Bhalla’s recent initiative to move Hoboken non partisan elections from May to the general election in November. After a brutal campaign period in Hoboken where voters went to the polls four times in a period of only a year, changes to our election laws must be strongly considered.
Under Councilman Bhalla’s proposal raised at the January 20 City Council meeting, taxpayers would not only save thousands of dollars through the consolidation of elections but save residents an unnecessary extra trip to the polls. By moving the election to November to coincide with statewide races, we would also achieve the result of increasing turnout in our local elections. Don’t we want the most people possible placing their vote for the future of our township? And don’t we want common sense resolutions like this one to trim costs without any significant repercussions whenever possible?
According to the city clerk, the May election cost the township taxpayers over $300,000, a high price tag that would be eliminated if we moved the election to the fall. In these tough economic times, residents should support this easy way to increase civic engagement while simultaneously cutting costs.
We should take Councilman Bhalla’s initiative one step further. Another way to save the taxpayers money on more unnecessary elections is by changing the rules for runoff elections. Currently, if a mayoral candidate or council candidate does not receive more than 50 percent of the vote in the general election, a runoff election is required by law. The mayoral race in 2005 saw five candidates run for mayor, the 2009 race 6 candidates. In neither election did a candidate come close to 50 percent, ensuring another election at the hands of the taxpayers. Why not eliminate the runoff altogether? Why spend more taxpayer money on an election when the voters already indicated their preference? If eliminating the runoff is too big of a change, we should also consider relaxing the rules for a runoff. In a mayoral race with 5 candidates, chances are slim that a candidate reaches the 50 percent vote count. Why not relax this limit to 40 percent of the vote total, or even 35 percent?
Fortunately, there are options to amend or get rid of the runoff. Eliminating the runoff can be introduced to the voters on the ballot through an ordinance of the governing body or through a petition process. Townships of similar sizes such as Teaneck or Paterson function just fine without a runoff, and in the process save their townships thousands of dollars. It’s also important to note that state elections in New Jersey don’t have a runoff even though candidates often win with less than 50 percent of the vote. Why should Hoboken be any different?