The only town in Essex to face a May 12th crisis election this year that will combine originally scheduled April school board elections and regularly slated nopartisan elections, Irvington navigates an original version of the COVID-19 election year unknown.
“It is a unique circumstance, being that usually April and May elections are usually very low turnout,” said Essex County Clerk Chris Durkin. “To open it up to the full universe of registered voters creates a challenge for candidates.”
To begin with, “You have to change the way you campaign,” the clerk added. “There’s no face to face no. It’s mostly social media.”
The all vote-by-mail (VBM) combined school board and nonpartisan Irvington election presents particular challenges to a party organization in power that has long relied on conventional GOTV strategies.
“Vote by mail is problematic because our strength has always been to get more people to the polls,” Irvongton Mayor Tony Vauss – the leader of Team Irvington Strong – told InsiderNJ. “But we have adapted, and we are getting our message out there.
“There is a lot of uncertainty, and we will absolutely be put to the test, because vote-by-mail is very technical,” Vauss added. “If you don’t do everything right, your vote doesn’t count. So it’s an unknown for everybody.”
The crisis here as elsewhere has meant government engagement 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The Essex town to date has suffered one COVID-19 casualty.
At the heart of citywide ward elections in this unpredicatable COVID-19 political environment, South Ward Councilwoman Jamillah Beasley – a Vauss ally – faces a rematch with challenger Al-tariq Ibn Shabazz.
Running last year to fill an unexpired term and this year running for the full term, Beasley in 2019 beat Shabazz by 300 votes.
How does Shabazz win in 2020?
“We build on our base and bring more folk into the fold,” he told InsiderNJ. “People were encouraged and energized by our previous run now we have to keep pushing and expand our message.”
Vauss said he and his team are spending most of their time trying to help Irvington’s most vulnerable residents, while maintaining the strictures of a Governor Phil Murphy-ordered shutdown.
“I think there is a majority of people taking it seriousy, but there are others who need to be reminded that it’s not ok to be cavalier with other people’s lives; still it’s but a segment of the population,” said the mayor. “Yes, there are people not taking it seriously. The president is not taking it seriously.”