|New Jersey Working Families and progressive advocates lauded the historic decision by a Superior Court judge today to protect the democratic process during the coronavirus pandemic.
Atlantic County Superior Court Judge James P. Savio rejected efforts by Democratic party bosses in Atlantic and Cape May counties to cancel elections for county committee, using the ongoing crisis as an excuse to deny Democratic voters a choice in crucial upcoming elections.
Judge Savio found that the move to unilaterally cancel these elections violated the parties’ own bylaws and ordered that elections for county committee be held at the same time as primary elections for president, Congress and local races — as originally scheduled.
A group of progressive candidates and organizations, including New Jersey Working Families, filed suit last month to protect New Jersey’s democratic process, pointing to Executive Order 105, which Governor Murphy issued to enable election activities to proceed in a manner in accordance with social distancing requirements.
Progressive advocates have released the following statements in response to Judge Savio’s ruling:
Sue Altman, New Jersey Working Families state director
Judge Savio’s ruling protects South Jersey’s democratic process and deals a blow to party bosses that for too long have ruled by fiat. It ensures that Democratic voters in Atlantic and Cape May counties get the opportunity to select their committee members at the ballot box. This ruling is a win for South Jersey’s Democratic voters, whose ability to choose the future direction of the party is protected. And it checks an unprecedented power grab by Atlantic and Cape May party bosses, under the cover of the coronavirus pandemic, to seize control from the voters to stifle a growing progressive movement. Political parties are not the playthings of special interests. They are accountable to the voters. And the voters must now get a chance to choose their own destinies.
Helen Duda, Atlantic County Democratic committee candidate
This is a victory in the fight for democracy and taking back power for the people. For far too long, our voices have been diminished, and so-called “party leaders” have controlled our politics and politicians. For far too long we have felt helpless to overcome the stranglehold of an unelected party boss who the party leaders answer to and whose money and power has determined who is elected. Today, we no longer sit back and allow our power be taken from us. Our grassroots organization, New Jersey CD-2 Progressive Democrats, will continue working for transparency, true democratic processes, and holding our Democratic party leaders accountable.
Cassandra Gatalein, Cape May County Democratic committee candidate
I am proud that we fought for this victory. Free and fair elections are intrinsic to a healthy democracy. We will not allow party leaders to arbitrarily cancel elections to maintain power. Instead, we need to ensure that the county committees — and the party itself — are being inclusive of all Democratic voices. We need to bring everybody into this movement and build the party up together. We believe that New Jersey voters deserve a true democracy — and the way to strengthen that democracy is by putting the power back into the hands of the people.