The city has one election every year unlike any other election.
The Board of Island Managers, which oversees Burlington Island in the middle of the Delaware River, conducts a public election for staggered board terms every April, but turnout is typically sparse with only a couple hundred voters — if that — bothering to go to the polls. Even last-minute, write-in candidates have won with less than 100 votes.
The poor turnout and the $800 average cost of the election for a board with no steady income have prompted the managers to vote unanimously to change the election date to the city's general election in November.
However, that change also requires a revision to an 1852 state law designating the election day. The board initially was established during the Colonial era in 1682 as a land trust before New Jersey was a state. The former site of an amusement park whose profits by charter were reserved for public school education in the city, the 400-acre island with a lake is currently uninhabited, although development proposals are pending.
Board President Jamie Zalot said the vote was necessary before the Legislature could consider a bill changing the date.
Assemblyman Herb Conaway, D-Burlington, and Assemblyman Troy Singleton, D-Burlington, have proposed legislation to be introduced later this month that would modernize the election process by moving it to the general election in November.
“We have worked closely with the Board of Island Managers in drafting this legislation to modernize this election process, a process established by legislation over 150 years ago. My goal in sponsoring this bill is to increase voter participation and decrease cost,” Conaway said.
In 1852, the New Jersey Legislature set the island managers election on the first Monday in April between the hours of 2 and 5 p.m. at City Hall.
While there have been updates to the law governing the board, the date of the election has remained unchanged.
"As one of the authors of the recent law to consolidate school board elections to a single date, this is an example of how collaborative government should work for the good of the people. By bringing this statute in line with that earlier change, it will bring the election process for the Board of Island Managers into the 21st century, promote transparency, and eliminate a costly special election,” said Singleton, recently named chairman of the Assembly State and Local Government Committee.
The legislation would move the board election to the same day as municipal government elections.
Also, last week the board accepted the resignation of member Hal James, creating a vacancy for his unexpired term. Three other board seats will be at stake this year.