5.7% turnout for school board elections

Marlboro and Neptune Township held school board elections yesterday.   Of the 45,035 registered voters in the the two townships, 2,618 voted.

By far most of those voters were from Marlboro, where over 2000 people came out.  In Neptune, less than 600 of aproximately 16,000 registered voters came out.

As of February 18, there was 24,926 registered voters in Marlboro and 15,865 in Neptune Township, according to Labels and Lists.  The county website says there were 45, 035 eligible voters in yesterday’s election.  Where those 4,244 new voters came from since February could be the subject of a future column.  In the meantime GOP leaders should take note that someone seems to be having a voter registration drive in Democratic towns.

For now I’d like to speculate about why there was a close to normal 10% turnout in Marlboro while only 3% turned out in Neptune.

One obvious reason could be competition.  In Marlboro, there were 7 candidates for 3 seats on the school board.  In Neptune, the 3 seats were not contested.

A not so obvious reason could be campaign spending.  In Marlboro one of the candidates, Bonniesue Rosenwald, mailed out a professionally produced post card late last week which included an endorsement from Mayor Jon Hornick.  Rosenwald, an incumbent, squeaked out a third place finish by 13 votes to retain her seat.

Some in Marlboro were upset that Rosenwald and Hornick politicised a school board election.  I say politicisation increases participation.

With the recent and perennial hubbub about campaign spending and pay to play, few of the critics of the pay to play/PAC/wheeling system are offering alternatives.  No one is talking about the public service campaign spending provides.

If not for campaign signs littering our roadways and lawns and mail boxes filled with glossy advertisements  few people would know when to interrupt their routines to vote.

With the arguable exception of presidential and gubernatorial elections, the media, local and national, does a horrible job of covering campaigns.  The media looks as electioneering as a revenue source,  not a story to be covered as if democracy depends upon it.

Current campaign finance laws thwart participation by limiting contributions and making the process more complicated.  The process is so complicated that only the most motivated and self interested contribute.  Recently, pundits at The Star Ledger, The Asbury Park Press and even the usually smarter than that InTheLobby criticised the John Wisniewski/Middlesex County PAC practices for violating the spirit of campaign finance laws.   Hogwash.  The complex system that reduces transparency is the spirit of our campaign finance laws.

If our leaders really want to reform the system, rather than give lip service to ethics while voting for a bill with “loopholes” intentionally written in, the would create a simple system with full and immediate disclosure required.

Posted: April 18th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Campaign Contributions, Campaign Finance, Elections, Pay-to-play | Tags: , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

8 Comments on “5.7% turnout for school board elections”

  1. Jim Granelli said at 10:40 am on April 18th, 2012:


    In Neptune, I believe you are correct about both of the reasons. Yes, it was about a non contested race, and it was about campaign spending.

    As well, this was again a FLAT budget with no tax increases. What are people to complain about with no tax increase? Although, it was interesting to see some 200 or more people said NO to a flat budget.

    As to campaign spending, money is tight and there was no rush to contribute to to a non contested race with a flat budget, hence no money for signs and a mailing to remind people of their civic responsibilities.

    Beyond that, besides the practical loss of the right to vote on the school budget (unless it increases more than 2%) imagine how much more difficult it will be for qualified board members to cut thru all of the FALL CAMPAIGN SIGNS AND MAILINGS.

    It will be EXTREMELY expensive, and the competition for money among political candidates and board members will become brutal. It took us $9,000 to unseat three unpopular board members three years ago, nearly $6,000 a year after to get rid of one more.

    DOUBLE THAT OR TRIPLE THAT in a fall election to just try and be competitive. It will be difficult for the mom and pop board candidates to raise that kind of money.

    Remember, board candidates do not have the political fundraising apparatus that political candidates have. Political candidates have huge networks.

    Board members will be forced to ally politically to stay alive.

    And in Neptune, this becomes the dangerous part. We applaud Mayor Bishop and the others on the township committee to let things lie and leave the election in April, in order to see what happens elsewhere.

    However, from various sources Randy took a lot of heat from members of his own Democrat party deriding him for blowing a chance to put “our people in place” in a town which VOTES HEAVILY for Democrats in the fall.


    Again, the current Board Of Education, two years of flat budgets and no tax increases, paid off mortgages, no more cronyism, a professional board with no more nasty bottle throwing fights in the board room.

    Current Democrat Township committee, constant tax increases, excess bonding and yes a certain amount of cronyism.

    We in Neptune are hoping and praying that they just sit and watch what happens in other towns this fall, look at the confusing image of a sample ballot, and the EXCESS of campaign signs and literature all being dumped at one time.

    We feel that moving the race to the fall in Neptune will only move things backwards financially by the Democrats “putting our people back on the board.”

    Today, the board truly operates independent of politics. It is made up of Democrats, Republicans and Independents; but they all operate under “fiscal conservatism”

  2. there goes said at 2:05 pm on April 18th, 2012:

    the theory that voters/taxpayers WANT a say in their school budget votes: time and again, the opportunity was there, but which the VERY few ever bothered to come out and vote up or down on a school budget..the trick in some towns used to be: don’t campaign, or bother to mention the April election: just get the fam and friends of the School Board incumbents out on that day, and therefore the “club” would be preserved, and they could pretty much do waht they wanted with their budget: fix the fields, or get new textbooks, that year?… so, for all the hemming and hawing we hear about how bad it is for most towns to just put their school board candidates on the ballot, (but with no say on budgets), in Nov., at least now there’s a slight chance people will even read/realize they have actual candidates running, who get to spend the largest portion of their tax bill on the schools!!

  3. "We get the kind of government said at 2:11 pm on April 18th, 2012:

    we deserve,” comes to mind??.. instead of voting “rights,” we really ought to be talking about “voting responsibility,” which means: pay the heck attention, folks, or you may not be pleased when these electeds run amok, and you finally wake up and realize, OMG,we did this mess, to ourselves!!!!

  4. To There Goes said at 3:17 pm on April 18th, 2012:

    You see, that is where you are wrong. In Neptune, WE DID something; took things into our hands and changed out the board with fiscally conservative minded people

    BUT, we needed the voter pressure on the budget to help.

    What you loose sight of is that in a town like Neptune; if we end up having the Board election moved to November, people will vote the “party line” (despite the wink wink that the seats aren’t political), the Democrat controlled candidates will get back on the board because of the voter affiliations in town; AND THEN; the Democrat board will have free reign to put in a 1.99% increase when ever they want because there is NO LONGER any voter pressure on the budget.

    There are many more towns like Neptune which will loose effective control of their school budgets with a move to November.

    YES ” WE GET THE KIND,” you are correct that people failed their responsibilities.


  5. Bob English said at 9:09 pm on April 18th, 2012:

    It’s yet to be seen but hopefully ballots are designed so that school board candidates are not listed direclty under each of the individual party lines. Would hate to be the candidates listed under one of the 3rd party lines. At any rate, candidates have to draw for ballot position.

    Hopefully the pols stay the hell out of school board elections and sb candidates resist the temptation to seek out endorsements of pols. The issues facing school boards and school districts are not political and politics has no place around sb’s.

  6. But You See Bob said at 9:43 pm on April 18th, 2012:

    According to the first comment here, the Democrats are already sticking their noses into the Board Of Education in Neptune with their “get our people on” comments.

    And, according to the law; there is NOTHING that can be done about it. The various township administrations can do this unilaterally, at their own whim without the approval of the people.

    “Hope” never works out when there is a Democrat involved. Just look at Obama’s hope and change.

  7. Bob English said at 11:17 pm on April 18th, 2012:

    Political interference in school boards is not a D or R issue. They should all stay the hell out.

  8. any time said at 11:54 am on April 19th, 2012:

    there’s competition, to be in- charge of taxpayers funds, (be it a regular partisan town election, a school board election, or a non-partisan town election), you will see involvement of the people in political parties: it’s partly about friends wanting their friends to have and share the power, it is a club, let’s face it.. in a basically two-party system, I don’t think that will ever change..also, we know that many former local or regional school board members in towns get their political “feet wet”, and move on to run and win at other levels of government, it’s how they get known, so people get used to seeing their names on the ballot..we can wish “politics” stayed out of schools, but, it, by nature, won’t and can’t!..