A Republican mayor in Burlington County is trying to avoid being on the ballot with President Donald Trump in 2020 by moving next year’s election from November to May.
Mayor Kurt Folcher wants voters to decide in a November 2019 referendum whether they want to move away from partisan local elections for 2020, when all three Republicans on the township committee are up for election.
That has put Folcher in a race against the clock with Assemblywoman Carol Murphy (D-Mount Laurel), who thinks the move is just an attempt by the GOP to avoid running in a presidential year when Democrats would have a better chance to flip in the 3-2 Republican majority.
The local controversy was first reported by the Burlington County Times.
Murphy and State Sen. Troy Singleton (D-Delran) have introduced legislation that would require governing bodies to have a super majority – four votes in the case of Mount Laurel — to advance ballot initiatives that would change the way elections are held. Murphy and Singleton also want to change the number of signatures needed from 10% to 25%.
The challenge for the Democratic legislators is to get the bill fast-tracked in both houses of the Legislature and convince Gov. Phil Murphy to sign it.
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 week 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.