A citizen’s group that wants to consolidate voting by moving the town’s quadrennial municipal elections from May to November says a letter from Township Attorney Ira Karasick directed Township Clerk Angelese Bermúdez-Nieves to reject their petition for a referendum.
In his letter Karasick enumerated five deficiencies in the petition, filed by Vote Montclair, most notably an allegedly fatal flaw involving the moving up of the next election to November 2023 from May 2024.
“Before the petition was circulated Karasick reviewed its contents and made suggestions to Vote Montclair’s attorney, which were incorporated into the version that was ultimately circulated,” said a statement from the group.
“He declined to raise any objections then or during the period in which almost 1,000 Montclair voters signed it,” the statement said. “Given this, one of two things happened.”
“The first is that Karasick didn’t know about this allegedly incurable flaw until it was brought to his attention, likely by individuals who wished to halt the effort, which raises questions of both competence and fairness,” it continues. “The second is that he did know, and by withholding information was from the start playing ‘gotcha,’ in a cynical effort to derail a grass roots initiative aimed at improving voter turnout. We see no third explanation.”
Vote Montclair clearly suspects foul play more than incompetence as the cause of their disappointment.
“We also note that we were told of Karasick’s decision, before we received our email, by a Montclair resident who is neither a township employee nor an elected official, and who had no reason to have knowledge of the letter or its contents. A member of the local press also contacted us the day before Karasick’s letter was sent to the petitioners,” the statement said.
Vote Montclair’s Committee of Petitioners includes Debra Caplan, Joshua Katz, Clifford Kulwin, Obdulia Miranda-Woodley, and Amber Reed
They said, “We submitted our petition, which gathered 989 signatures in a matter of days, because changing the election from May to November will significantly increase voter participation, while saving the township roughly $100,000 per election cycle.”
“We cannot help but believe that ‘politics,’ as opposed to actual and ethically determined legal problems, are the real story here,” said Vote Montclair. “In the days ahead we will carefully review Karasick’s letter and determine our future course of action.”
More information about the group may be found online at https://votemontclair.org
Pictured above are Clifford Kulwin and Debra Caplan, two of the five petitioners seeking to move Montclair’s municipal elections from May to November, a move that would likely mean greater turnout —which they describe as a measure to combat voter suppression.