Shedding light on false “Vote No” mailer information

To Our Neighbors:

Over the weekend, you likely received competing “Vote Yes” and “Vote No” mailers about moving our local elections to November. We are excited for a constructive dialog which enables the community to make educated decisions on the ballot. However, we were disturbed by a number of falsehoods and misleading claims on the “Vote No” mailer.

We at One Village One Vote have been open about our data sourcing and have run a campaign based on facts. Unfortunately, our opposition has not. We have therefore written this letter to correct the misinformation shared by those who wish to defeat the ballot question on election consolidation.

  • The “Vote No” claim: The mailer shares three quotes that are attributed to the NJ School Boards Association.
    • The truth behind the claim: The NJ School Boards Association, as far as we can tell, never made any of these statements.
      • The statements in the mailer are from the Red Bank, NJ Board of Education, NOT the NJ School Boards Association. (The quotes were made as part of a resolution by the Red Bank, NJ Board of Education on April 26, 2011.)
      • Ironically, during the same meeting where the Red Bank BOE introduced this resolution, they also introduced another resolution urging the state to eliminate a public vote on the school budget.
      • The NJ School Boards Associations supports the One Village One Vote position that school elections should be held in November. The following are real quotes from Larry Feinsod, Executive Director of the NJ School Boards Association:
        • “By moving school elections from April to the fall, school districts experienced higher voter participation, saved the cost of an additional election, and obtained budget stability.”
        • “For many of the 468 boards that switched to November school elections, those positive factors outweighed concerns about political party influence over the statutorily non-partisan board of education races.”
    • The “Vote No” claim: “Turnout for our local elections held in November…averaged less than spring election turnout.” There is also a graph that attempts to illustrate this point.
      • The truth behind this claim: The data are simply incorrect. Voter participation in November Board of Education (BOE) elections is systematically understated, while participation in springtime Board of Education elections is systematically overstated. The truth is that significantly more people have historically voted for local races and issues in November.
        • November BOE election figures are systematically understated. The mailer appears to have used the Ridgewood Village Clerk’s unofficial tallies for these numbers. These numbers do not include mail-in and provisional ballot totals nor do they agree with the official certified results from the county clerk.
        • As an example, compare 2018 BOE candidate election figures from One Village One Vote (OVOV) to those on the mailer. OVOV reported 7,663 votes cast, the mailer reported 6,453. To get a complete count, look at the official certified results from the County Clerk (see page 179), and add together the Grand Totals for Mr. Kaufman, Mr. Loncto, and Personal Choice. These add up to 7,663, the figure cited by OVOV. This means the “Vote No” committee understated actual participation by 16%. The same issue holds true for 2017 and 2016 figures.
        • Spring BOE election figures are systematically overstated. The mailer used a different methodology to calculate votes for the spring BOE candidate elections from 2010 to 2013. In these years, the mailer used the “Ballots Cast” figure from the official County Clerk reports. Unfortunately, this “Ballots Cast” figure does not provide a count specific to the BOE race; rather, it rather tallies anyone who cast a vote in the election — for either a BOE candidate, the School Budget, or both. Because of this, it systematically overstates the number of people who actually voted for a BOE candidate.
        • For an example of this, please compare 2012 BOE election figures from OVOV to those on the mailer. OVOV reported 2,511 votes cast (look at page 17 of the official certified results, and add together the number of votes cast for 1 year trustee for Mr. Morgan, Mr. Hutton, and Personal Choice). The mailer reported 2,856, which is the number under the “Ballots Cast” column and not the number of actual votes for a BOE candidate. This means the “Vote No” committee overstated actual participation by 14%.
        • It is unclear why the mailer used different approaches for counting voter participation in November versus in the spring. With corrected data, however, their claim does not hold up.
      • The “Vote No” claim: “Moving our local elections to November does not save money. Our school budget vote ensures public accountability, which saved taxpayers $630,000 in redundant spending this year.”
        • The truth behind the claim: This statement is incorrect in three ways:
          • Each election held in April or May costs Ridgewood taxpayers between $42k and $65k in administrative costs. These figures are drawn from official Bergen County and Village of Ridgewood documentation. In years in which there are both Village Council and School elections, the total cost can exceed $100k. By moving elections to November, these costs are eliminated.
          • The idea that the “no” vote “saved taxpayers $630,000” is misleading at best. This was money that was cut from the school budget, representing a loss of services and other funds, not a loss of redundancies. Among other things, the cuts reduced summer maintenance and custodial services in a pandemic year, a time when our schools are dealing with increased cleaning needs due to COVID-19. In addition, the cuts took money away from our Maintenance Reserve account, savings held for future unanticipated expenses.
          • If Ridgewood voters desire to shrink the school budget, the most efficient way to do so is by electing like-minded, budget-shrinking candidates to the Board of Education. This can be handled in November as well as the spring.

Neighbors, we are eager to have a productive dialog, to educate the community, and to share differing points of view. If our opponents’ case is as compelling as they believe, there is no reason to be careless with the facts. We have reached out to them about this multiple times, both publicly and privately, but our attempts to have a cordial, direct conversation have either been ignored or rebuffed. We therefore have issued this statement calling upon the “Vote No” forces to correct their misinformation, and to share the facts contained in this open letter with their supporters.

Respectfully,

The One Village One Vote team:

circle with map of the State of New Jersey that reads Vote Yes to Municipal Question; Consolidate Ridgewood's elections to November; onevillageonevote.com

Bob Fuhrman
Matthew Lindenberg
Stacey Loscalzo
Deborah Steinbaum
Siobhan Crann Winograd

Be sure to sign up for emails at www.onevillageonevote.com in order to receive all of the latest information and learn how you can help support this change in our Village. Thank you.