Huntington residents overwhelming voted Tuesday to retain an at-large system of selecting town board members.
In a special election, 16,657 residents voted against a proposal to divide the town into council districts while 3,834 voted yes, according to the Suffolk County Board of Elections.
A Board of Elections spokeswoman said last night the vote will not be certified until Jan. 4. According to the board, 20,491 residents cast votes.
"We feel great," said Ken Christensen, a member of Keep Huntington Whole, an organization formed to campaign against council districts. "The Huntington electorate has been smart all along. They don't go for who's a Republican or who's a Democrat. They go for who the candidates are."
He said the vote was a rebuke of efforts to divide the town of 200,000 residents.
"Once we got the word out and people started to hear the issues," Christensen said, "they could think about what those issues were and what they were saying and what our counterarguments were. I think they said, 'Hey we like it the way it is.' "
Mark Cronin, co-organizer of Concerned Citizens of Huntington, the organization that initiated the petition drive to get the referendum to voters and led a 10-month campaign on its behalf, conceded Tuesday night that the people have spoken.
"We didn't do what we needed to do," Cronin said. "It wasn't the right time. "
The issue of electing town board members from individual districts almost got to the ballot in 2005. In that proposal, advocates also wanted to increase the number of town board members from four to six.
But a vote on the measure was canceled just weeks before it went to residents. A judge ruled that the petitions requesting a referendum were invalid because of out-of-date-signatures and language that was not in compliance with state election law.