Teaneck is a melting pot, and for the most part many can differentiate local issues, such as funding the fire and police department, paving local roads, which are decided by the Teaneck Town Council, from state-level decisions—such as state income taxes and federal legislation including Social Security, infrastructure, foreign aid and the defense budget.
Currently there is a referendum proposing moving the council elections to November from May; there are several reasons for/against it, and I will address each of them:
- Voter turnout
- Costs of election
- Issue awareness
- Partisan politics
These local issues are extremely important in the day-to-day lives of Teaneck residents. Getting as many voters as possible to show up on election day is critical. This is regardless of how many votes they cast. The goal is getting more people into the voting booths.
Has this occurred? A resounding yes. Since 2012, the voter turnout in November has been 78% higher than the voter turnout in May. Basically, for every 1,000 eligible (registered) voters, 283 (on average) vote in May, and 502 vote in November. If you look only at even years, when the Teaneck council elections occur, this is even more pronounced: Turnout is more than double at 127% higher or 642 voters of 1,000 registered voters (as compared to the 283 in May). Why?
Some people care about federal elections significantly more than they do about Teaneck council elections. The elections in May are for council only, and as a result many voters just don’t bother showing up. However, a consolidated local vote for both the board of elections (BOE) and council in November would lead to much greater awareness in the community and larger voter turnout. And based on recent experience, that is the case. (See charts below.)
Local elections allow residents to vote for up to three or four individual candidates.
Below is a chart of the average elections and utilization over the years.
Actual Votes Cast
Additionally, I decided to look at the total number of votes actually cast, since in each municipal/BOE election a total number of allowable votes is three per BOE election and three or four for every other municipal election. The analysis removes all uncontested elections, which hasn’t occurred in Teaneck since 2017.
It is evident that there are more votes cast in November elections than those cast in May elections.
November actual votes cast are 113% higher after removing noncompetitive elections. If we look only at elections in even years (council election years), the number of votes cast for BOE are 35% higher than the corresponding May elections.
Costs of the Election
While the costs of a May election are relatively small ($50,000), it is an unnecessary cost; we can use the money for other expenditures such as filling more potholes or adding another few programs at the Rodda center. The cost is small relative to the total council budget, but why do we need to spend the extra taxpayer dollars?
Teaneck has nonpartisan elections—no one runs as a Democrat or Republican. The town manager, council and other municipal employees are selected by most of the council—not by any outside party boss. If the election were moved to November, it would still be nonpartisan.
Currently Teaneck only has candidates at large running for Board of Education and Teaneck Council. Since 2012 BOE elections have been at the same time as the November elections, without much party interference. Yes, any group or individual can endorse candidates, but that occurs regardless of when the elections are—May or November.
Some Claim: If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It.
For years the Teaneck council preferred May elections for their own reasons. I think that the local councilman representing Teaneck should be voted in by the largest possible representation of Teaneck, and that would occur in November.
Since the time that May elections were initiated many things have changed. Change is necessary for evolution. People for Progress and it’s time for positive change!
Stephen Gruber is the moderator of Teaneck Newsroom on Facebook and is an actuary by profession with a degree in math/statistics.