Two of the candidates from last year’s campaign in Hoboken are sparring again over an ordinance to bring back runoffs in mayoral elections.
Councilman Mike DeFusco wants voters to decide if they want to reinstate the runoff, and is criticizing Mayor Ravi Bhalla for vetoing a council ordinance to allow the referendum.
“It is disappointing to see Mayor Bhalla not just deny Hoboken residents the opportunity to have their voices heard in a public referendum on our voting rights, but to also see him spread misinformation and half-truths while doing so,” DeFusco said. “This issue should be decided by the people, not by entrenched, establishment politicians like Mayor Bhalla who benefit from a flawed current system.”
In 2017, Bhalla defeated Fusco by a 33%-30% margin, with 37% of the vote split among four other candidates.
Bhalla doesn’t dispute the objective of maximizing voter turnout, but says the debate should also include a discussion about elections “being influenced by improper conduct.”
“The evidence is clear that there is a dramatic reduction in voter turnout associated with December runoff elections, as we saw most recently during four Jersey City runoffs in 2017 which experienced voter turnout reductions ranging from 33.6 percent to 45.4 percent,” Bhalla said.
Bhalla maintains that DeFusco’s motives are more sinister than he lets on.
“The open secret known by every single member of the City Council and alluded to in multiple local news reports is that there is massive vote-buying that occurs in our elections,” said Bhalla. “Reducing voter turnout through runoffs in December will amplify the power of those vote-buying operations, making our elections less democratic.”
Bhalla called the city council resolution City Council “highly misguided” and said it “amounts to poor public policy that I cannot support.”
Instead, Bhalla wants to institute instant runoff voting — also known as ranked choice — which is commonplace around the country.
“All of this is meant to distract from the fact that Mayor Bhalla is concerned that re-instituting runoff elections would hurt his chances of re-election as he has not demonstrated the ability to secure majority support or to work collaboratively with his fellow elected officials,” said DeFusco. “This is a deeply cynical ploy that puts politics over our city’s values of transparency and openness, and I will be working with my Council colleagues to determine what steps can be taken to ensure that Hoboken residents’ voices are ultimately heard on this important issue.”