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Red Bank voters deciding change of government ballot question

RED BANK — Voting has begun on a public ballot question that will, if approved by voters, change the form of municipal government in Red Bank.

Election Day is Nov. 8, but mail-in ballots are being filled out and returned now and in-person early voting between Oct. 29 and Nov. 6 will precede in-person voting on the first Tuesday in November.

A public question on the ballot asks voters if Red Bank should adopt the council-manager plan as its form of government. Residents have the option to vote “yes” or “no.” A simple majority will decide the outcome of the referendum.

If the public question is approved, under the council-manager form of municipal government, six council members and a directly elected mayor will be elected at large for staggered terms during a nonpartisan election that would be held in May. If a sufficient number of candidates fail to attain a majority of votes, a run-off election would be held in June.

According to the public question, if the change in government is approved by voters, the first municipal election under the new form of government would be held on May 9 and Red Bank’s new mayor and council members would be installed on July 1.

After the new governing body has been installed, the elected officials may choose to move subsequent nonpartisan elections to the November general election, according to the public question. If a nonpartisan election is held in November, a run-off election, if needed, would be held in December.

Red Bank currently operates under a partisan form of government known as the borough form. The municipal government consists of six Borough Council members who serve staggered three-year terms and a directly elected mayor who serves a four-year term.

The council members vote on action items (i.e., resolutions and ordinances). The mayor only votes if there is a tie on a specific item. Democrats currently hold all six council seats and the mayor’s office.

In the proposed nonpartisan council-manager form of government, six council members would serve staggered four-year terms. The directly elected mayor would serve a four-year term and would vote alongside the council members on action items.

The mayor and council members are responsible for all legislative powers and for setting municipal policy, according to the ballot question.

The mayor and council in the proposed form of government would appoint a municipal manager who would exercise all executive and administrative powers. The manager serves the mayor and council and would be subject to removal from that position by a simple majority vote of the elected officials.

In order to initiate the new staggered council terms if the ballot question is approved, four council members who are elected under the new form of government would serve for two years, to be determined upon the initial organization of the new government. The remaining two council members and the mayor would serve four-year terms.

A municipal election would be held every two years, according to the public question.

The ballot question proposing the change in government has been offered to the public by the five members of a charter study commission who spent several months examining the types of government that are available to Red Bank under New Jersey law.

The charter study commission was established earlier this year after being approved by Red Bank voters in the 2021 general election.

The members of the commission who were elected by residents were Nancy Facey-Blackwood (chair), Mark Taylor (vice chair), Michael DuPont, Ben Forest and Kathryn Okeson.

The commission members reviewed the charter responsible for establishing Red Bank’s form of government and eventually recommended the council-manager form as being more appropriate for the borough.

A charter study commission and a direct petition are the two methods of changing a municipal government in New Jersey, according to borough officials.

A final report issuing the commission’s recommendation was published on July 19.

According to the report, the commission members determined the borough form of government is not meeting the needs of Red Bank.

Commission members found that the borough form lacks sufficient delineations of authority for office holders, which has led to council members overstepping their roles, and that partisan elections have created a divisive environment that undermined the local government from properly functioning.

The commission members believe the council-manager form will directly address and rectify micromanagement issues, according to the report.

The commission members also believe nonpartisan elections will improve Red Bank’s electoral process by counteracting the influence of political party endorsements and favorable ballot position.

Residents may vote in the following manner:

• At their local polling place on Election Day. Registered voters can cast their ballot in person at their polling place, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 8. Accommodations will be made for voters who have a disability. Go to VOTE.NJ.GOV for polling places, listed on the Polling Locations page;

• In-Person Early Voting. This option enables all registered voters to cast their ballot in person, using a voting machine, during a nine-day period prior to Election Day. Voters can choose to vote, in person, when it is most convenient for their schedule.

No matter where a voter lives in their county, they can cast their specific ballot at any of their county’s designated in-person early voting locations. County locations can be found at VOTE.NJ.GOV.

In-person early voting locations will be open from Oct. 29 through Nov. 6. Hours will be Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. No appointment is necessary. Accommodations will be made for voters who have a disability;

• Vote By Mail Ballot. Registered voters can apply for a vote by mail ballot by following the instructions found at VOTE.NJ.GOV or by contacting their county clerk.

Return options include:

• Mail: The ballot must be postmarked on or before 8 p.m. Nov. 8 and received by their county Board of Elections on or before Nov. 14;

• Secure Ballot Drop Box: Place the ballot in one of their county’s secure ballot drop boxes by 8 p.m. Nov. 8. Drop box locations can be found at VOTE.NJ.GOV;

• Board of Elections Office: Deliver the ballot in person to the county Board of Elections office by 8 p.m. Nov. 8. County election officials contact information can be found at VOTE.NJ.GOV;

Vote by mail ballots cannot be returned to polling places or early voting locations, according to a press release from New Jersey Votes.

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