Don’t mess with Carol “The Bear” Murphy.
When the Republican mayor of Mount Laurel tried to avoid being on the ballot with President Donald Trump in 2020 by trying to move next year’s November partisan election to a May non-partisan race, The Bear — that’s what the Burlington County Times called the freshman Democratic assemblywoman — got both houses of the Legislature to effectively stop the maneuver.
The council is set to pass Mayor Kurt Folcher’s bid for a November 2019 referendum to change the form of government on Monday night. He has three Republican votes to do that on the five-member council.
That put Murphy in a race against the clock with Folcher to pass a law requiring a supermajority to do that. The two Democrats on the Mount Laurel council voted against Focher’s plan at introduction.
Now The Bear needs Gov. Phil Murphy, who doesn’t necessarily fight with South Jersey Democrats on everything, to sign the bill before the Mount Laurel Council votes on Monday night.
“The successful passage of my legislation today in both chambers is a victory for democracy and the electoral process in New Jersey,” said Carol Murphy. “The decision to change the form of government is a serious choice for township residents to consider, and should not be subject to the whims of politicians handicapping their next campaign.”
The Senate also approved the measure today. State Sen. Troy Singleton (D-Delran) sponsored it in the upper house.
“I’m extremely proud how swiftly we moved this to the Governor’s desk for final approval because we have a moral obligation to both, protect the integrity of our elections and guard against reckless politics that attempt to rig the system,” Assemblywoman Murphy said.
The bill also changes the number of signatures needed to put the issue on the ballot from 10% to 25%.
The local controversy was first reported by the Burlington County Times.
In the 2016 general election, 73% of Mount Laurel voters turned out to vote. In two other Burlington municipalities that held May non-partisan election, turnout was around 17%.
Last month in North Bergen, where more than $1 million was spent between the two slates in a non-partisan municipal election, turnout was at 34%.
Folcher’s move comes at a time when many municipalities with non-partisan local elections have moved to November in a bid to increase voter turnout.