HOWELL – Five Howell residents have started a petition to add a referendum to the November ballot to change the municipal elections to non-partisan.
Currently Howell Township operates under the Council-Manager plan, where the Mayor and four Council members serve four-year terms and hire a manager to conduct the day-to-day operations of the township. Under this plan, Howell residents have the right to amend or change their form of government through a process called “initiative and referendum.”
“One of these possible amendments includes changing from partisan to non-partisan municipal elections. This occurs when residents form a Committee of Petitioners and circulate a petition to gather signatures in order to have a referendum question submitted to the voters at the next election,” the petition’s website, howellnjfirst.com, states. “Once the petitioners obtain the required number of signatures and the petition is certified by the municipal clerk, the proposed referendum question is presented to our Township Council. At that time, our council can pass an ordinance changing to non-partisan elections. If our council does not pass an ordinance, then the proposed referendum question is submitted to the voters at the next election.”
At the moment, Howell Township holds partisan municipal elections every two years and the mayor or council candidates must run under a party (such as Republican or Democrat). The petitioners explain how they feel this division is distracting voters from important local issues or a candidate’s qualifications.
The petition’s website states how nearly half of the voters in Howell are registered as unaffiliated or independent. If the Township changed to non-partisan elections, the mayor and council would not be connected to any particular political party.
“Changing to non-partisan elections will create a more equitable and inclusive process for candidates who do not want to run on the party line. Changing to non-partisan elections will require candidates to campaign on issues. Changing to non-partisan elections will force candidates to appeal beyond party bases. Changing to non-partisan elections will foster coalition building rather than party loyalty,” the petition states.
The petition also expresses how they think this would give a broader representation of Howell residents and appointing members to the Planning and Zoning Boards would not done based on party affiliation.
“For too many years, the hiring of partisan professionals and partisan appointments to our boards and committees has been a disservice for the collective good of Howell residents,” the petition states.
There are currently 88 municipalities in New Jersey that hold non-partisan elections. There are 42 municipalities in New Jersey operating under the Council-Manager plan and 16 of them hold non-partisan elections. If Howell Township switches, they will be joining Tinton Falls, Ocean Township, Asbury Park and Long Branch, totaling to five municipalities in Monmouth County holding non-partisan elections.
According to the Howell Happenings Facebook page, the petition would need over 2,300 signatures from Howell Registered voters to get the question added to November ballot.
If this is something you would like to see, you can sign the petition online at howellnjfirst.com