Good Government Coalition of NJ statement on canceled county committee elections

Princeton, N.J. (March 24, 2020) — In the midst of a public health crisis, it is natural that everyone’s primary concern is to maintain their health and the health of their loved ones. For decision makers whose decisions affect the lives of many, it is especially difficult to correctly balance the different tradeoffs in these times of  great uncertainty. The Good Government Coalition of NJ (GGCNJ) appreciates the Governor’s decision to restrict NJ residents to only essential services. We also agree with decisions that have made filing petitions to run for office safer by eliminating the need for human contact.

However, elections themselves are an essential service — the bedrock of our democracy — and cancelling elections is counter to good governance. County committee is an accessible entry point for citizens interested in becoming more engaged with their local municipal and county government and within their local political party. Especially now, people are looking for ways to support their party and to become more politically active. If other elections are going forward in this year’s primary (as they should be!), why are elections for the Democratic county committee being haphazardly cancelled? This is dangerous for the future of the Democratic party. It is also extremely dangerous for democracy. Mercer county has already declared that they will go on with all elections as planned, with extra measures that make filing petitions safe. We ask all County Chairs to move forward with county committee elections, and believe these could be held in a way that is safe for all.

On Friday, March 20th, NJ State Democratic Committee Chair John Currie put out a statement suggesting that the Chairs of counties that are re-electing their county committee this year consider extending the term of sitting committee members by one year rather than hold an election. This statement gave County Chairs the freedom to decide whether or not elections should run as scheduled. This has translated into County Chairs using their authority to concentrate power, change fundamental by-laws without regard to proper procedure, and to quash widespread enthusiasm about getting involved in the democratic process. This is perhaps most dramatic in South Jersey where county committee elections have now been cancelled in Atlantic and Cape May counties. Many who have already submitted their petitions to run for office — to fill vacant seats or compete against incumbents — will now be prevented from running.

For example, in Cape May County, organizer Cassandra Gatelin successfully spearheaded a team of over 20 residents ready to run for county committee. Petitions, which require only TWO signatures (one of which is the candidate themselves, and both of which can now be obtained electronically), were promptly submitted. The cancellation of this election sends the wrong message to citizens who want to get involved. The cancellation of this election shakes our faith in democracy. The United States was founded on democratic principles and elections are of course key to democracy.  We are also a can-do citizenry. We can use our technological ingenuity during a pandemic to gather signatures. It can be done. And many petitions have already been submitted pre-pandemic!

We the undersigned are calling on all NJ County Chairs to go through with the upcoming June primary elections for county committee. Yes, these are extraordinary times, but in extraordinary times we need our elected officials to go the extra mile, and to take the extra step to ensure that our institutions, our democratic processes, are upheld. The last thing we want to do in a pandemic is cancel our democracy — and nothing makes that clearer than what is going on in Washington right now. Canceling local elections is a precedent and a slippery slope no one wants to go down. Please rescind the cancellation of the County Committee elections and get them back onto the calendar. You have an election to run!

Good Government Coalition of NJ

And the following organizations and individuals, most of them county committee members (in alphabetical order):

Cape May County Indivisible

Central Jersey Progressives Democrats

Collingswood Democratic Committee

Cooper River Indivisible

NJ CD-2 Progressive Democrats

Our Revolution Monmouth

People for Progress

Piscataway Progressive Democratic Organization

Real Democrats of NJ

South Jersey Progressive Democrats

South Jersey Women for Progressive Change

 

Garwood Bacon (Gloucester County)

Angela Bardoe (Cumberland County)

Lisa Bonanno (Gloucester County)

Stephanie Bruno (Gloucester County)

Joan Butcher-Farkas (Monmouth County)

Becca Coll (Bergen County)

Tom Curto Yaccarino (Monmouth County)

Matt Dragon (Essex County)

Linda D’Urbano (Gloucester County)

Steven Farkas (Monmouth County)

Cassandra Gatelin (Cape May County)

Tina Heil (Gloucester County)

Janis Herrgott Iwanyk (Monmouth County)

Amanda Hill (Gloucester County)

Jeanne Jordan (Gloucester County)

Gretchen Landenburger (Cape May County)

Nancy Markalunas (Monmouth County)

Mark Pepper (Mercer County)

Kelly Redkoles (Gloucester county; Chair, Municipal Committee)

Alice Rogers (Gloucester County)

Frances Sexauer Carroll (Mercer County)

Rosemary Topar (Union County)

Anna-Marta Visky (Monmouth County)

Shayla Woolfort (Cape May County)

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