Ward petitioners decide against legal appeal

Staff Writer

Staff Writer

EDISON — Proponents of a switch in the township’s form of government say they have dropped their fight.

Petitioners who worked to get a ballot question put out before voters on Election Day said that they might go to court to ensure that both the election results, and the recount, reflected the wants and needs of township residents. The ballot question, which asked the voters to approve a change from an "at large" Township Council to one where council members would represent specific sections of town that have been divided into wards, was defeated at the polls on Nov. 4.

The group petitioning for the change has decided not to continue its fight in court, said William Stephens, a former councilman and ward petitioner.

The petitioners had questioned whether or not the number of people who signed in to vote and the number of votes counted matched, according to Stephens. Also, there were some signatures that were different from the signatures in previous years, he said.

A court battle would have been split up into two parts, Stephens said. The petitioners would have had to show there was sufficient grounds for the case. Then, people would have been subpoenaed to prove that they would have voted for the ward system.

Pursuing a court battle "would be a pointless exercise," Stephens said. The ballot question was defeated by only 30 votes, according to county election officials.

Since the question was defeated, a referendum about changing to a ward system of government cannot be put on the ballot for another four years, he said.

The petitioners contended that the ward system would provide better representation for all areas of town.

In a ward system, the township would have been divided into five wards, or sections of town. Residents in each ward would all vote for one council person to represent that area. Each ward would have had about 20,000 people since the township’s total population is about 100,000.

Although wards may not be coming to the township, the petitioners contend that certain sections of town can still work to have a bigger voice in township affairs.

"We need to do a better job of making sure all issues within the township are addressed," Stephens said.

Stephens said he will continue to help bring issues from all areas of town to the council’s attention to ensure that issues are dealt with in a public forum.