(TRENTON) — A bill sponsored by Senator Barbara Buono and Assemblymen Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr., and Peter J. Barnes III which will allow municipalities with nonpartisan forms of government the option to hold their May elections on the same day as the general election in November in order to save tax dollars and increase voter participation was signed into law Thursday by Acting Governor Steve Sweeney.
“New Jersey’s near-constant campaign cycle has definitely created a level of voter fatigue in the Garden State,” said Senator Buono, (D-Metuchen). “As a result of having to go to the polls usually multiple times in any given year, many voters become detached from the process and simply can’t differentiate the issues from one election cycle to the next. Through this new law, we will be able to energize an apathetic electorate, and allow municipalities to save tax dollars that would otherwise be spent on a separate election day.”
“Allowing towns that hold May nonpartisan elections to move those elections to November without jeopardizing their nonpartisan status is a win for everyone,” said Assemblyman Diegnan (D-South Plainfield). “Municipalities win because they save money while being able to keep their unique form of government; voters and candidates win because the electorate is more engaged and more active in November elections.”
The bill, A-351/S-1099, will give municipalities the option of changing the date of their nonpartisan municipal elections — held the second Tuesday in May — to coincide with the general election held in November. Under the new law, municipalities will have to approve a local ordinance in order to consolidate partisan and nonpartisan elections to the November date, and will only be allowed to return to a May election date after ten years under the new system and through additional local ordinance. The law stipulates that current office-holders’ terms would be extended to the start of newly elected office-holders in the November election if a municipality adopts an ordinance shifting their election date, and the ballot design will be required to draw clear distinctions between the partisan and nonpartisan elections.
Municipalities will also have to designate by ordinance how they would handle a run-off election, if necessary, for nonpartisan elected offices on the ballot.
“Giving communities the option to save money by moving their municipal nonpartisan elections to November just makes sense,” said Assemblyman Peter J. Barnes III (D-Edison). “It allows towns the freedom to decide what electoral approach is right for them, and helps them to save money in the process.”
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