Dear Ridgewood Community,
Today, August 13, we submitted a “supplemental petition” to the Village Clerk to cure the defects she identified with our original submission. The law allowed us just ten days to fix the issues identified by the Clerk, collect new signatures, and resubmit. Thanks to tremendous support from the community we were able to meet this tight deadline. And we did so with 582 signatures from Ridgewood voters, once again well more than the 410 threshold needed to put the question to consolidate Ridgewood’s elections on the ballot in November as a binding initiative.
As a quick recap, our original petition submission was deemed by the Village Clerk to be “insufficient” for two reasons. First, the full text of our proposed ordinance to move the timing of the elections needed to be on the actual petition form each voter signed, rather than the more simplified summary we had included. Second, while use of an online form is acceptable under Governor Murphy’s Executive Order 132, the Clerk objected to how the form was shared on our web page and potentially by others in the community.
Given the grassroots nature of our effort, these obstacles do sometimes arise; however, we received some great advice and fixed the identified defects. We included the full text of the proposed ordinance on the amended petition form, and we ensured that only the five official petitioners personally circulated and collected the petition form. With these updates, the Village Clerk has five days to review, and then we expect her to certify that the petition is sufficient.
Most importantly, neighbors in the Village are really talking about the issue, sharing their perspectives, and listening to each other. We all care about our Village passionately. This initiative will make Ridgewood a better place to live by improving our democracy – increasing voter turnout, saving tens of thousands of dollars per year, and helping with school security. And while not everyone agrees with us, this much now seems clear: IT IS TIME TO LET THE VOTERS DECIDE. This is an important issue which merits conversation and a binding vote. We call upon the Village Clerk and Village Council to ensure this happens this November.
Yesterday, August 18th, the Ridgewood Village Clerk notified us via email that our petition again was rejected. This occurred despite our rapid resubmission of a revised petition that addressed the Clerk’s stated reasons for her initial rejection. The clerk did not share reasons for the new rejection; rather, she stated that more information will be provided at the next Village Council meeting, September 2nd (still 2 weeks away). One of us visited her office in person today to obtain more information but was referred back to the email noted above.
Given that we resubmitted a petition that fully addressed the Clerk’s initial concerns, we are stumped. As Village residents who hope to improve the rate of civic participation here in Ridgewood, we deserve a courteous, complete, and timely explanation as to why our petition, signed by a substantial portion of the electorate, was rejected.
We have been advised that the Clerk’s office is not complying with the relevant state statute, that states “…if the petition be still insufficient, (s)he shall file his (her) certificate to that effect in his (her) office and notify the Committee of the Petitioners of his (her) findings….”
We will be meeting as a group to determine next steps. We are especially concerned that we have minimal time before ballots are finalized for the upcoming election, and hope to update you in the near future.
Finally, we would like to say a warm thank you to the Ridgewood community for all your support and help.