#HD182: Babette Josephs is disappointed. Me too.

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My two cents.

I was present at the hearing today that ended in Former Representative Josephs’ removal from the May 2014 ballot. This ongoing story has been a real experience for me, not only as a fairly green addition to the Philadelphia journalistic community, but also just as a politically active person in general. I’ve heard all the lectures from friends, colleagues, and family, saying “don’t be involved in politics unless you have thick skin” and “everybody’s a crook”. (Maybe that last one was a misremembered Nixon quote. I can’t decide.)

You can read about the entire hearing today here. I won’t rehash that now. Chris Brennan of the Philadelphia Daily News, who I was overjoyed to meet today, posted an article about this story, and with it, a quote from Former Representative Josephs:

“I’m disappointed of course,” Josephs said after the hearing, getting one more dig in on Sims. “I think it was important for the state representative there now to understand that this is not about him. It’s not about me. It’s about the people of the 182nd District and the people of Pennsylvania”

Does she mean that it’s about the people whose signatures were forged en masse? Does she mean it should be about the gentleman whose identity was impersonated as a circulator of petitions, meaning that someone not only forged his signature, but signed on an affidavit that he was holding accountable those who also allegedly signed the petition? If that’s what she meant, I completely agree. It’s not about a famous blogger who happened to be one of the forgery victims, and it’s not about settling old scores with political nemeses, no matter how much they may have earned that role in previous elections, which Representative Sims may have. I’m not the arbitrator of that political decision.

It’s about elections being the bedrock of our democratic republic. It’s about those who we elect to represent us actually getting there by legitimate means. We already know our politicians can be bought, that politicians can and have blocked our access to exercise our right to vote….but is it so idealistic, so naive to assume that our right to our own identity is a right that cannot be deferred, infringed, or denied?

Babette Josephs is not the first candidate whose campaign staff and volunteers have resorted to outright forgery to gain access to the ballot, and unfortunately she will most likely not be the last, especially not in Philadelphia. If we lifted up the rug on this issue, I’m pretty sure we’d all be horrified at what we would find, even the most pessimistic among us. Babette Josephs’ campaign is not the horrific example – her 2014 electoral attempt is part of the accepted norm, and that is disgraceful.

On one hand we have folks who want a criminal investigation. I have mixed feelings – there are violent crimes for which we don’t have the resources to prosecute. On the other hand, if we don’t have a system of accountability for those seeking leadership positions in our governmental bodies, making some of the most important decisions any of us could ever imagine…if we don’t have that, what are we all even doing?

Other folks talk about how Representative Josephs is a progressive champion, and she absolutely was. I watched as a young girl in absolute admiration of some of the issues she championed as a state legislator. It made me want to run for office someday, and know that I could. They talk about the fact that she is a little bit older than the average candidate, and she can’t watch over everyone all the time. If that’s the case, she never should have run in the first place, and I say that as a blanket statement for any candidate, Democrat or Republican, who cannot hold their own staff accountable to the law.

When her last-minute, haphazard desire to get revenge on her 2012 rival overshadowed her progressive principles, when she decided to align herself with one of the most conservative, dishonest political officials in the state, Representative Margo Davidson, just to beat our Brian Sims, I lost my respect for her. I’ll admit that openly and publicly.

There are two last things I would like to say, and then I will get off of my soap box. I think it’s time for voters to demand a better system here in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania. With tenacious leaders like City Commissioner Stephanie Singer, maybe a system can be created that makes the least politically ambitious person able to check online to see if their signature has been forged by any campaign. It would just need to be a simple tagging system. It would also make the signature tabulation process much easier for top tier state races, to ensure that signatures are not being counted toward multiple candidates incidentally. If that’s something people want, I suggest you contact the commissioner and request it. I live in Delaware County.

The last thing I would like to say is this. Objectively looking at some of the things Representative Josephs has claimed about her current record and agenda, I issue her this challenge. Representative, if you really are that progressive champion that so many young girls like me watched on PCN and modeled their own ambitions after, do not continue to support Representative Davidson. She is not a progressive. Heck, she’s barely a Democrat according to most policy standards. I may say that louder than everyone else, but plenty of folks agree.

Or continue to support her, and just admit you’ve had a political change of heart. We’ll all forgive you, but I think everyone’s eager for a little bit more honesty, today especially.

This entry was posted in Elections, Greater Philadelphia, Miscellany, State House, State Politics.

12 Responses to #HD182: Babette Josephs is disappointed. Me too.

  1. Garrett says:

    I like your ideals, and I agree Josephs should be ashamed for seemingly using shady tactics to claw her way back into relevancy. But with all due respect, your idea of tagging signatures on petitions is naive. let’s just look at state reps. running in Philly. Candidates average roughly double the min number needed of sigs needed for their office, and there’s 26 state rep races in Philly (with a min of 300 sigs each). So, that’s 26 state rep races x conservatively 2 candidates per race x about 600 sigs per candidate = 31,200 sigs by my count, plus Governor, Lt. Governor, State Senate, State Committee, and over 4,000 committeepeople who are running this election. You think City Council is willing to foot the bill for that much employee overtime?

    • Colleen Kennedy says:

      I don’t pretend to be a technological expert. What ideas do you have to combat this issue? I’d honestly like to start a discussion. I’m sure someone has a good idea out there.

      • Garrett says:

        I don’t think you could use any kind of character recognition software – the writing is probably too sloppy, small and varied. And you can’t give out scans of the petitions for fear of identity theft (they do have everyone’s name/address/signature). My idea instead is to deter potential forgers by prodding local/state authorities to what they should’ve been doing all along: prosecute obvious cases criminally.

        • Scott Alberts says:

          The Commonwealth already does post scans of petitions on their election webpage. These petitions are a matter of public record, after all.

  2. Alfred Achtert Jr. says:

    Minor detail; State Rep, State Senator, Congressman, Senator, Governor, Lt. Governor, State row offices, and County Judges are filed with the Department of State in Harrisburg. Only local offices are filed with the local County Bureau of Elections.

    • Colleen Kennedy says:

      Correct Al! I was unclear in my wording. Thanks for clarifying with folks.

      In my head, I guess what I was trying to say is that Philadelphia has the potential with Commissioner Singer to become a modeling example for the rest of the state. I didn’t word it very well.

    • Garrett says:

      You’re absolutely right. OK then, 203 house races and 25 senate races this cycle. My math comes to 243,600 for reps and 50,000 for senate alone, plus the other offices, all up to the DoS in Harrisburg. Good luck.

    • Garrett says:

      And you still have 4,000+ committeepeople for Philly to chew on.

      • Colleen Kennedy says:

        Okay, so it’s a massive undertaking, but is it not that important?

        • Garrett says:

          It’s just unfeasible. And what would happen if one forged line was found? They’d just knock off that one line; it wouldn’t have a bearing on the rest of the petition. You’d have to have a Lot of people testify to forgery to knock off a state-level candidate.

  3. Tim Potts says:

    There’s another sad example. Former Rep. (now deceased) Linda Bebko Jones from Erie did the same thing in 2006. Despite being an incumbent and having all the resources of incumbency, she didn’t bother to get 300 valid signatures on her nominating petitions. There were forgeries — conspicuous forgeries. She was someone I liked and occasionally admired. But she got the disease that Josephs got, and it ended her career. You would think that Josephs would have learned the lesson from her former colleague. But if you’re in the General Assembly long enough, you get the idea that you don’t have to learn anything any longer. It’s sad on a personal level, but it’s also unforgivably insulting to democracy.

  4. Carl Feldman says:

    The system of tagging isn’t impossible at the state level. Their database is updated with new registrations every day with signatures scanned in.

    OCR scanning is pretty advanced and could probably flag potential forgeries as opposed to an immeadiate knockoff. It would still require someone to “petition the court” though and bring suit.

    Essencially it would cut down on the massive amount of time campaigns spend pouring over opponents signatures in the short time after the filing deadline.

    So if made a priority could be done.