NEWTON, NJ — Newton residents will now vote for town council members on the November ballot. After a long battle and much controversy, the petitioners’ request to let the voters have a say on the issue has been granted and the yesses have it.
The unofficial results of the special election that took place on Tuesday, July 3, according to the Municipal Clerk Lorraine Read. Voter turnout of 16.5 percent, 820 votes were counted; 773 votes from Election Day and 46 absentee ballots.
Tuesday morning the polls opened at 6 a.m. and stayed open until 8 p.m., allowing residents of Newton to vote on the municipal question, according to the sample ballot: “Shall the ordinance, initiated by the petitioners, providing for municipal elections to be moved from May to November, be adopted?”
The ordinance, as stated on the sample ballot read the following:
Ordinance of the town of Newton, County of Sussex, New Jersey, Ordinance to Move the Municipal Election from May to November
Now therefore be it ordained, by the town of Newton, County of Sussex, State of New Jersey, that the Newton municipal elections under the Optional Municipal Charter Law/Faulkner Act be moved from May to November pursuant to N.J.S.A 40:45-7-1.
Deputy Mayor, Daniel Flynn was on hand at Board of Elections office when the results were announced by the Read. Flynn, publicly opposed to the ballot question, declined to comment on the matter.
“The people have decided and I am just glad that this is behind us now. I hope that now this new council can move forward with more exciting and positive things for the Town of Newton,” Councilman Matthew Dickson said. Dickenson also awaited the results in the Board of Elections office.
Mayor Helen LeFois, who was not in attendance at the board of elections office, commented in an interview, after the results were released.
“I want to thank the over 800 voters that came out to the polls today,” LeFois said. “They’ve decided to change the Newton election to coincide with the November elections. Now only time will tell whether Newton’s unique issues and concerns get drowned out by a potentially partisan election in November as opposed to a nonpartisan election in May. I greatly appreciate the democratic process that was followed and appreciate the voice of the voters.”
"Newton residents endure crippling taxes and mitigating that issue is something I'm excited to be a part of," Councilman Jason Schlaffer said in an interview. "We must continue to put forward positive changes to better hear the voices of our neighbors. I hope to one day see Election Day recognized as a federal holiday but even without that designation it promises to double voter participation. Add the bonus of tightening the budget, a step in the right direction toward lowering an astronomical tax burden, and you have the formula for a great decision."
The leader of the five-person petitioner’s committee, Dr. Ludmilla Mecaj, was not in attendance at the elections office but responded to Tapinto Newton’s request for a comment after the results were announced.
“The will of the people prevailed, despite strong attempts to mislead them, and we now have the change which was long overdue,” Mecaj said. “Let us look forward to find other ways to improve the lives in our community, by working together — in a positive fashion despite our differences — as a good family would do."
" I also wanted to point out that, this reasonable outcome could not have been accomplished without the unstinting efforts of the Petitioners Committee Members, Circulators, Supporters and the unswerving support of the one Councilman (now ex-Councilman) who saw the need for more voter participation in the government of the town, Wayne Levante," Mecaj added later.
Councilwoman Sandra Diglio and Councilman Jason Schlaffer were unable to be reached after the results were released for comment at the time of this article.
Newton residents Anwar Qarmout and Margaret Baldini were also at the board of elections office while the results were read, but left before making a comment.
The results broken down by district:
District 1: 92 votes, 12.87% voter turnout
District 2: 115 votes, 12.92 voter turnout
District 3: 160 votes, 17.19% voter turnout
District 4: 238 votes, 20.20% voter turnout
District 5: 107 votes, 16.26% voter turnout
District 6: 108 votes, 18.03% voter turnout
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