Council opposes Oct. election


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"This is not a Republican or a Democrat issue. It's an issue of right and wrong. It's fiscally irresponsible and politically motivated. I ask my Republican colleagues to stand on principle."
Councilman Mike Hensley

By LINDA SMITH HANCHARICK

— The township council is opposed to holding a special election on Oct. 16 in order to choose the state's next United States senator.

By a vote of 4-2, the council passed a resolution last week in opposition to Gov. Chris Christie's plan to hold the special election to fill the seat of Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who died last month.

Councilmembers Ada Erik, Mike Hensley, CarlLa Horton and Ed Rosone supported the resolution that opposes the special election, while Councilmembers Vivienne Erk and Lou Signorino voted against the resolution.

High cost
What this does is increase the number of elections from two to four this year, causing added expense to every municipality in the state. Estimates are this will cost an additional $24 million statewide. Locally, West Milford will spend about $16,000 on these two election.

In addition, the need for poll workers may not be met. West Milford Township Clerk Antoinette Battaglia has said ideally, the township tries to get 52 workers, two Democrats and two Republicans for each of the 13 districts. It doesn't happen often but with four elections this year, she said they will most likely have a shortage of poll workers. Each worker earns $200 per day and many of the workers are on fixed incomes. Anyone who earns more than $600 in a year must receive a 1099 form from the township for tax purposes. With four elections, that would bring a poll worker's total to $800 and the need to receive the 1099.

"Some people don't want that to happen," Battaglia told the Messenger.

Also, there is the necessary training for poll workers, provided by the county. If new workers are needed, they have little time to get the required training.

"An issue of right and wrong"

"I encourage all of you to be as outraged as I am," said Horton while discussing the special general election.

In addition to the unexpected price tag of $12 million for each the special primary and general election, Horton cited logistics of voting machines, voter confusion by having the special election on a Wednesday instead of a Tuesday and, "most importantly, voter suppression" as the reasons why this election should not take place.

"Particularly for servicemen and servicewomen, the elderly and others with limited transportation and/or limited economic means," she said.

Hensley, a Republican, urged all of the council to oppose the special general election.

"This is not a Republican or a Democrat issue," he said. "It's an issue of right and wrong. It's fiscally irresponsible and politically motivated. I ask my Republican colleagues to stand on principle."

Two did and two did not.

Chris Garcia, the president of the West Milford Democratic Club, had earlier voiced his opposition to the special general election.

"It's a terrible waste of taxpayers' money for this special election. The Democratic Club opposes it," said Garcia. "I implore the council to take a stand on this. Don't let the governor's special interest take up our tax money."

After Lautenberg died, Christie set the primary election for Aug. 13 for the Democrats and Republicans to choose their candidates. He then set a special election for Oct. 16, just 20 days before the general election on Nov. 5. It is all legal. Christie is running for reelection and some say politics influenced his decision. The Democratic frontrunner is Newark Mayor Cory Booker. Some feel that Booker will be a draw for Democrats and may pull votes from the popular Christie in his quest for a second term as governor. He is facing Barbara Buono and has a commanding lead over her in the polls.

The governor has said politics doesn't enter into it. Instead, he said he wanted the state voters to choose their senator as soon as possible. He appointed state Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa to fill the position until the election. Chiesa is not seeking the nomination. Democrats Booker, Reps. Rush Holt and Frank Pallone and state Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver will vie for the Democratic nomination. For the Republicans, Steve Lonegan, the former mayor of Bogota, and Alieta Eck, a physician and former president of the conservative Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, are going for the Republican nomination.

The victor will fill the remainder of Lautenberg's term, which ends in January, 2015. Election for a full term will be in Nov. 2014.

What do you think about the council's vote to oppose a special election in October instead of waiting until the scheduled election in November? Go to westmilfordmessenger.com and tell us.


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