An election where the minority rules

Fire district elections will take place Saturday in New Jersey, despite urging by the state comptroller to stop the practice of holding the stand-alone contests in February.

Traditionally only a tiny fraction of voters, mostly firefighters, go to the polls to determine the fate of fire district budgets worth tens of millions of dollars. New Jersey has about 185 fire districts in the 79 towns where fire districts have been established by local ordinance.

Assemblyman Ronald Dancer, R-Ocean, is the sponsor of a bill establishing procedures for boards of fire commissioners to move annual fire district elections to November and eliminate votes on fire district budgets, except for proposals to raise revenue above the permissible levy cap.

The legislation is languishing, however, and Dancer said he doesn’t know the reason why.

Troy Singleton, D-Burlington, is also a primary sponsor and Gregory McGuckin, R-Ocean, is a co-sponsor.

“It’s a bipartisan bill,’’ Dancer said. “I’m hopeful that we can get it moved. We should provide the opportunity to consolidate elections and this is consistent with what was done with the school districts.’’

Democrats control the Assembly and decide which bills get priority.

“Nothing has been scheduled on it,’’ said Tom Hester Jr., spokesman for the Assembly Democrats.

A report from the Office of State Comptroller last May said turnout for February elections “is exceptionally low.’’

The report said audited fire districts in Brick, Cherry Hill and Woodbridge had fewer than 2 percent of registered voters participate in 2012 elections.

“The comptroller confirmed what we already knew. It is inefficient to hold fire district elections in February,” Dancer said. “A separate election wastes taxpayer dollars.’’

Bob Jordan 609-984-4343, [email protected]

If you vote

Polls for fire district elections Saturday are open between 2 p.m. and 9 p.m. The elections occur in municipalities where one or more fire districts have been established by local ordinance.

Original article