VINELAND – Robert Romano would now be preparing to take the oath of office for his second consecutive term as the city’s mayor if the results of the Nov. 6 election were final.
But Romano did not get more than 50 percent of the vote on that day, forcing a runoff election with Ruben Bermudez that had Romano worried about the final balloting results if voter turnout decreased.
Romano’s worries were correct: While 60 percent of the city’s voters turned out on Nov. 6, only 23 percent went to the polls for the Dec. 18 runoff elections for mayor and City Council. Romano and all five members of his City Council slate – including Peter Coccaro and Mayra Arroyo, who ran successfully with Romano four years ago – lost.
Shortly after the results were final on Dec. 18, a disappointed Romano was upset at having to go through a runoff election that he said cost the city at least $80,000.
“It’s a waste of money,” he said.
What might make the situation worse for Romano is that he pressed City Council to do away with runoff elections. City Council opted to move the municipality’s non-partisan election from May to November, but left the runoff election process in place. City Council members did express some concern that the local government would be selected in runoff election process that saw significant decreases in voter participation.
However, a review of the past seven runoff elections here show that none had the significant drop in voter turnout as did the Dec. 18 election. Voter turnout in five of those elections decreased only slightly, remained flat in one election and increased in another election.
City Clerk Keith Petrosky said the 60 percent voter turnout on Nov. 6 was likely linked to local elections being held on the same ballot with the presidential election. Voter turnout generally increases in a presidential election.
Still, city voting records show that voter turnout:
- Decreased from 69 percent in the May 1976 elections to 65 percent for the subsequent runoff elections.
- Decreased from 50 percent in the May 1980 elections to 44 percent in the subsequent runoff elections.
- Decreased from 44 percent in the May 1984 elections to 42 percent in the subsequent runoff elections.
- Decreased from 47 percent in the May 1988 elections to 44 percent in the subsequent runoff elections.
- Increased from 38 percent in the May 1992 elections to 41 percent in the subsequent runoff elections.
- Remained at around 36 percent for both the May 1996 and subsequent runoff elections.
- Decreased from 31 percent in the May 2000 elections to 30 percent in the subsequent runoff elections.
Bermudez will now take the oath of office in a private ceremony at 10 a.m. on Tuesday in City Council chambers in City Hall.
His City Council slate of Anthony Fanucci, John Procopio, Paul Spinelli, Angela Calakos and Maritza Gonzalez will take their oaths during a public ceremony at noon on Saturday. The ceremony will be held in the Landis Intermediate School auditorium.