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RED BANK: SPECIAL-ELECTION PLANS MULLED

red-bank-election-polling-110320-1-500x374-2161979One issue to be resolved: whether to hold a weekend of early voting at borough hall. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

election-2023-220x189-2831214Following the will of voters as expressed in November, Red Bank officials have begun organizing a special election in May.

That’s when voters will return to the polls, this time to choose a mayor and six council members to be seated under an all-new form of government July 1.antonelli-portman-reinertsen-011123-500x375-3651010Mayor Billy Portman, center, confers with Clerk Laura Reinertsen and Attorney Dan Antonelli at Wednesday’s meeting. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

At Wednesday night’s council meeting, officials got into the nuts-and-bolts of the May 9 election with a discussion about whether to host in-person voting at borough hall the preceding weekend.

Doing so could cost the town $65,000, Clerk Laura Reinertsen said.

The election is the product of a November referendum on whether the municipality should undertake an historic overhaul of its form of government and its elections. By a margin of more than two-to-one, voters said “yes.”

An early voting option that would enable voters to cast ballots in-person at borough hall only from Friday, May 5, through Sunday, May 7, has financial implications, Reinertsen said.

If Red Bank is the sole municipality in Monmouth County to hold a May election, as appears likely, the town would have to bear the full brunt of the county’s costs, which include trucking, staffing and more, Reinertsen said. If other towns host elections, the expenses would be shared, she said.

“It’s a considerable cost,” she said. Another municipality that she did not name, with more voting districts, told her it held a special election that cost about $75,000, about half of which was attributed to early voting, she said.

The county, she said, was preparing a preliminary quote for Red Bank, she said.

Mayor Billy Portman noted that “a quirk in the law says you have to have this election in May, which is why we’re having this discussion.”

But if he wins re-election, he plans to push for a change that would return elections to the first Tuesday each November, starting in 2025, to “boost participation,” he said. Returning elections to November was among the recommendations of the Charter Study Commission, issued last July.

“So hopefully, this will be a onetime cost,” he said, adding that he’d like to get the county’s estimate for early voting before acting, “because that’s a substantial number. But we also want as many people voting as possible.”

Councilpersons Michael Ballard and Ed Zipprich also voiced concerns about costs.

Meantime, the paperwork candidates will need to get on the ballot will be posted to the borough website Tuesday, Reinertsen said.

Because it will be a nonpartisan election, would-be candidates will be able to avoid local Democratic and Republican party machinery and get on the ballot directly by assembling 78 valid petition signatures by March 6.

All six council seats and the mayor’s seat will be at stake. Eligible residents will be allowed to nominate one candidate per open seat, said Attorney Dan Antonelli. (Reinertsen had earlier said residents would only be allowed to sign one petition, and Antonelli initially appeared to agree. But he later read from the governing statute, which says “each signer must not, at the time of signing the certificate, have signed more certificates for candidates for that office than there are places to be filled for the office.”)

Here’s the commission’s full report, which explained the referendum and its impacts on the election process: Red Bank Charter Study Commission Final Report 071922

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