Hoboken will once again have runoff elections following its municipal elections — if a candidate fails to get a 50-percent majority — now that voters overwhelmingly voted “Yes” on Nov. 6 to reinstate runoffs. The vote was a landslide, 11,781 to 4,270, as of Monday, Nov. 12.
The election turnout was unusually high, likely due to publicity over both local issues and the congressional mid-term elections. Hoboken has roughly 38,763 registered voters, and at least 16,051 of those voted on the runoff question. According to the county, 20,033 voted in the school board race. In 2014, the highest vote-getter in the November school board race amassed only 2,128 votes, about a third as many as the highest vote-getter this time.
The city could see runoffs as soon as November of 2019, when six ward council seats will be up for election. The two top finishers in a ward race would go to a runoff in early December, if neither draws more than 50 percent of the vote.
Hoboken used to have runoff elections, but Mayor Dawn Zimmer and her allies led a charge to do away with them, by public referendum, in 2012.
But last year, six candidates ran for mayor. Mayor Ravi Bhalla was elected with only 33 percent of the vote. Some believe that without runoffs, too many candidates will be elected without majority support.
This past February, the City Council passed an ordinance 7-2 to have a referendum on the ballot to allow voters to decide whether to reinstate runoff elections. Councilman Michael DeFusco, who came second to Mayor Ravi Bhalla in last year’s mayoral election, was a proponent for the change.
“Tonight an overwhelming 70 percent margin of Hoboken residents voted not for a candidate, but for the principles of majority rule, democratic elections, and honest government,” said DeFusco on Tuesday, Nov. 6.
Bhalla had been against the referendum and vetoed the council’s decision to include it on the ballot this past January, but the council overturned the veto in February. He said he believes runoff elections open future elections to voter fraud and was concerned with voter dropoff. But others argue that voter fraud can affect any election.
New school board members
Voters also selected three out of five candidates for the Hoboken Board of Education.
Incumbent board member Thomas Kluepfel was re-elected, as was one of his two runningmates, Malani Cademartori. Their third slate member, incumbent John Madigan, failed to win. Instead, Hoboken independent candidate Ailene McGuirk was elected.
They will serve three-year terms after they are sworn in during a Hoboken Board of Education meeting in January.
According to preliminary results from the Hudson County Clerk’s Office, of the roughly 20,000 ballots cast in the school board election, Cademartori received 6,722 votes. Kluepfel received 6,670, and McGuirk received 5,916. Madigan received 5,777, and activist and independent candidate Patricia Waiters received 3,817.
Kluepfel said one thing the board will continue to focus on is equity between all the district’s schools.
Cademartori said she was both happy and sad with the election’s initial results, as it meant her slatemate, Madigan, would not be reelected.
She said now that she has been elected to the board, “I’ll be spending this time to really get educated and dive into the nuts and bolts of the district, looking at things like the district’s financial history.…”
McGuirk, who has children in the district, attributed her win as an independent candidate to the relationships she created over the years and the people who supported her.
She said she wants to ensure that all voices across Hoboken are heard and represented by the board.
Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher bought thousands of “I Voted” stickers for voters. She had said last year on social media she would get the stickers if the county didn’t do so. The county Board of Elections then proceeded to get them for the rest of the county. even asking Fisher for some of hers.
Fisher said she had purchased 50,000 stickers for about $250. She said she received a lot of positive responses, and believes the stickers act as a “badge of honor” for doing your civic duty, and inspired neighbors to vote.
“A ton of people are responding … that the stickers allowed them to make voting a family event by bringing their kids to take part,” Fisher said.
Marilyn Baer can be reached at Marilynb@hudsonreporter.com or comment online at hudsonreporter.com