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State Sen. Jim Beach (D-Voorhees). Photo courtesy of the New Jersey State Senate.

Opinion: ‘It’s Relatively easy to qualify to run in a county-wide race’

By Senator Jim Beach, April 30 2020 9:04 pm

OPINION

It is important that New Jerseyans are made aware of something very serious that happened last week that you may have missed with the crush of news during this pandemic.

As anyone who watches or cares about politics in New Jersey knows, it’s relatively easy to qualify to run in a county-wide race — all it takes is 100 signatures from your party’s voters. The petition process is important because it is an early measure of grassroots support and demonstrates the ability to do the basic organizing needed to win races. Literally hundreds of candidates meet the low bar to qualify every election cycle.

Despite this low bar sometimes — rarely — unscrupulous and unethical people decide to cheat, committing a fraud against voters.

That’s what happened in South Jersey this spring and it is why three counties are conducting criminal investigations into the State Director of NJ Working Families, Sue Altman, and her consultant, Dave Parano.

This spring, Altman, her cohort, Kate Delany, and Parano collected and submitted petitions in 13 races in four South Jersey counties — Camden, Cumberland, Gloucester and Cape May. They also helped Congressional candidate Amy Kennedy gather petitions in those counties and Atlantic County. The County Clerks found the Altman/Delany candidates’ petitions were either insufficient or invalid. That happens when people pretend to be grassroots activists – Altman, Delany, the NJWF and their allies conducted over 100 events and trainings since the last election — but don’t actually know what they are doing.

But what happened next is against the law.

Sometime after Altman and Parano submitted the online petitions for their candidates, someone went into the electronically filed documents and added new petitions, which is fraud. Altman and Parano then verified to a court under the penalty of perjury that the changed petitions were submitted correctly. Luckily, Camden County had taken screen shots of the initial filings. When the courts began investigating, Altman and her allies deleted the records.

As soon as it became clear that Altman was going to have to testify under oath about the petitions and how and why they were changed after the deadline, Altman refused to turn over documents and withdrew the lawsuit she filed to get her candidates on the ballot. Clearly she understood that while it’s one thing to lie to the media and on Twitter — she’s been accused by the media of “reckless slander” in the past — but it’s another thing to lie under oath.

This isn’t the first time Altman has been connected to election fraud — last year, the candidates she backed for Camden County Freeholder were found to have forgeries on their petitions. Despite her self-promotion as an election expert, her own petitions for the Democratic County Committee were rejected because they didn’t meet the low threshold to qualify.

So why is this all important at a time like this?

Because as we see every day, elections matter — especially in times of crisis. One doesn’t need to imagine the difference between leaders who tell the truth and those who don’t. Just look at President Trump. Unfortunately, that’s exactly how Altman, her cohort Kate Delany and their allies act — they lie, they attack, they promote themselves.

We don’t need to bring the worst of Washington, DC to South Jersey.

I will keep interested parties in the state apprised of how the multiple investigations into Altman and her co-conspirators proceed.

Jim Beach, a State Senator from Camden County, is the Camden County Democratic Chairman. 

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