Manchester Township’s voters spoke loud and clear this past Tuesday at the polls, when a majority of 63 percent voted to
Those who voted in favor of the change were tallied at 5,831, while 3,395 voters opposed the decision, according to Township Clerk Sabina Skibo.
Voters in favor of the change touted that turnout is higher for general elections in November, and that such a move would save Manchester about $50,000 by eliminating a polling day.
The Planning Committee Chairman of the Manchester Republican Club, Henry Dudley, commented that the club was “very happy” about the referendum’s approval. “Our club worked hard, and we thank the council for putting the initiative on the ballot. We think it’s a win for voters, more people will get to vote on municipal matters,” Dudley said. The planning chairman also said that he couldn’t figure out the rationale of those opposed to the measure.
Bob Miesemer, president of the Manchester Republican Club, said that the organization had worked hard to get information on the initiative to the voters, and was “delighted” at the results. “We won by a large margin, larger than I expected. However, now that the vote is done, I would like to move forward,” Miesemer said.
The Republican Club president added that he was “delighted we made it, happy that the people believed us”, and the move toward November elections was “for the good of the township.”
Voters opposed to the change in election date feared the return of partisan politics to town government, something the Manchester population decided to turn away from in 1990, after a landmark financial scandal involving township officials. Since then, the Manchester Township Council has been a non-partisan governing body.
Mayor Michael Fressola has previously stated his opposition to the decision, and that the cost savings for moving the election to November is around $40,000 – which would “not translate into a lot of money per household”, according to the mayor.
Fressola stated that it was “hard for him to understand the theory that November elections have more turnout”, when only 26 percent of registered voters in Manchester participated in last week’s general election.
“I can’t figure out why 5,800 residents supporting (the referendum) want partisan politics back, when the cost of keeping the town non-partisan was less than $1 per resident, any way you figure it,” Fressola said.
The mayor claimed that the stated goal of a “local partisan political club” was to win three council seats and return Manchester to having a partisan governing body that would take control of the town. “Apparently, 5,800 residents are interested in that. However, I have my doubts,” Fressola said.
By those doubts, the mayor added that he was approached by several Manchester residents who believed their vote of “yes” on the referendum approval was in fact directed toward keeping the governing body a non-partisan one. The mayor felt that this confusion may have led residents to cast votes for a measure that they perhaps did not want.
“But, we’ll live with it, and we’ll continue to keep partisan politics out of Manchester; 5,800 is a minor total. Perhaps apathy created the situation, perhaps (the proponents of the referendum) were better at getting the word out,” Fressola said.
The terms of elected municipal officials will now be extended six months to bring them in line with a November vote. The township is now bound to hold its municipal elections in November for 10 years before the possibility of switching back to a May vote can be approved.
Manchester residents previously had the opportunity to decide on moving municipal elections in 1999, when voters defeated a similar referendum.
Note: Manchester Patch editor Gregory Kyriakakis contributed to this story.