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Township Hall in Teaneck, New Jersey. (Photo: Township of Teaneck).

Teaneck petitioners submit 2,100 new signatures in effort to move local elections

Initial petition from July 9 was rejected by town clerk

By Joey Fox, August 09 2021 11:33 am

Organizers with the One Town One Vote initiative in Teaneck plan on submitting an additional 2,100 signatures to Teaneck Township Clerk Doug Ruccione today, in an effort to cure a petition that was rejected by Ruccione last week. The proposal, if placed on the November ballot and approved by voters, would move local elections in Teaneck from May to November.

The organizers of the petition – among them Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) – initially submitted 1,350 signatures to Ruccione on July 9, which they said exceeded the required threshold of 791 signatures.

However, on July 29 – at “the last possible legal moment,” according to the organizers – Ruccione rejected the petition for a number of reasons, claiming that only 653 signatures were valid and that the required threshold was in fact 1,977 signatures, in accordance with a different New Jersey statute.

Ruccione gave the organizers ten days to amend their petition and resubmit. In those ten days, the One Town One Vote initiative gathered 2,100 signatures, bringing their total to 3,450, well above either threshold. Ruccione has five days to assess the signatures and either affirm or reject the petition.

“We were disappointed, but we were not deterred” by the July 29 rejection, One Town One Vote petitioner Reshma Khan said in a statement. “The popularity of the initiative is demonstrated by the fact that we were able to collect nearly twice as many signatures in the 10 days after the petition was rejected as during our initial 5-week petition drive.”

If Ruccione does reject the petition even with the added signatures, Khan said that the One Town One Vote organizers plan on litigating the case.

In a letter addressed to Ruccione, One Town One Vote’s legal counsel listed several ways they believed Ruccione had erred in his original rejection of the petition. For one, Ruccione rejected 200 electronic signatures collected on or before July 4; beginning July 5, no new electronic signatures could be collected, but the petitioners argued that those collected before that date remain valid.

Another 322 signatures were rejected by Ruccione for containing information that did not match with voter records. According to the letter from One Town One Vote, many of these signatures contained only minor errors, and should be accepted.

The letter also noted that Ruccione did not warn of any such problems in the days before the petition was submitted on July 9, and only brought attention to them in his official rejection.

If Ruccione accepts the amended petition, however, such legal options will be rendered unnecessary. And according to Khan, the difficult process of getting on the ballot has only made the initiative stronger.

“The One Town One Vote team has now managed to build bridges and gain support for the referendum question when it does go on the ballot in November 2021,” she said.

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