Should Camden Change to Non-Partisan Elections? Over 2000 Petitioners Say Yes –

12August 2020

CAMDEN, NJ- Since May previous City Councilman Ali Sloan El and longtime activist Vance Bowman have worked to collect signatures calling for Camden to go back to nonpartisan elections after 13 years.

If a resolution to make the change – which would impact council and mayoral elections – does not appear before City Council throughout the Sept. 8 public meeting, it will be up for factor to consider on the November ballot.

In Camden, which has a population of roughly 77,000, roughly 7,000 voters cast their ballot last November. Under the present system, according to activists – who have actually established petition tables throughout social justice rallies, non-profit press conferences, and other events in the city – prospects backed by the South Jersey Democratic political maker are provided a leg up when it concerns ballot placement throughout every June primary. Independents, they claim, are as a result prevented from participating at all.

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“It's crucial we make this push, particularly throughout these turbulent times,” Sloan El, among the authors of the petition, told TAPinto Camden.

Those in favor of nonpartisan elections point to the state's tally style, declaring it makes for an unfair procedure. When voting in Camden County, like 19 other counties in New Jersey, residents are presented a slate of prospects endorsed by the Democratic or Republican Party. The list, which lays out the “county” or “celebration” lines, appears as a vertical or horizontal line of names. Anybody not on that line can appear in any of the other columns or rows.

Theo Spencer, who is running for the Camden school board this year, states when he ran for mayor in 2013 against Dana Redd, his name appeared in Column 7 with empty rows ranging from 2-6.

“The typical voter believed she wasn't running against anybody,” Spencer stated.

Overall having control over the optics of the ballot, Spencer and others state, provides celebration chairs the opportunity to manage who wins the primary.

“They've been picking prospects faithful to the county office, not devoted to citizens of the city of Camden,” stated Sloan El, keeping in mind that the petition of approximately 2,200 signatures was filed Monday to the City Clerk's workplace. “If these candidates were faithful to the residents, the housing wouldn't look like it does, youths would not be having a hard time for jobs like they are. The method it's established now, they can't be held liable because the people didn't put them in office.”

Sloan El's advocacy for citizens extends beyond nonpartisan elections. While collecting signatures, he joined activists in registering 175 new citizens – uninformed of recent legislation allowing

for anyone on probation or parole to vote. In 2007, Sloan El plead guilty after taking $36,000 in allurements from an FBI agent while ensuring he would direct public work to a professional. He spent

18 months in jail. An appearance back The city run under nonpartisan elections in between 1960 and 1992, along with 1996 to 2007.

“The citizens changed from nonpartisan to partisan years back and the easy factor were that nonpartisan [elections] are in May and moving it would put the concern on taxpayers,” Mayor Frank Moran said over the phone. “We also discovered there was less voter turn-out for nonpartisan than partisan. At the end of the day I'm democratic and a partisan individual however I ran for the individuals of my city, and we believe the citizens already spoke up [on this]”

Moran estimates that it would cost the city upwards of $100,000 to hold a different nonpartisan election – which isn't the case with the June and November elections.

Sloan El says that in 2007 lawmakers in the city had the ability to change elections to partisan after putting it on the ballot and purporting $80,000 would be salvaged.

Spencer believes the genuine opposition lies in what the modification would imply for those in office.”The reason they're against it is they benefit, plain and basic,” Spencer said. “The thing about nonpartisan is the candidates included can't ride the coattails of the ticket.”

Those leading the nonpartisan petition, in addition to 70 volunteers, gathered over the required quantity, which was 25% of the citizens in the last basic assembly election (1,750 names). The city clerk was not right away available for comment concerning whether it will be voted on next month.

In 2015 a ballot question surrounding the return of chosen school board of advisers members showed successful, regardless of opposition from some in official positions including Moran.

According to Spencer, if the city shifts to nonpartisan it will stay in place for a decade.

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