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Norcross Bill Creating Pilot Program To Streamline County Elections Positions Clears Committee

Measure Would Allow Camden and Morris Counties To Participate In Pilot Program Aimed At Eliminating Redundancies, Saving Taxpayer Money

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Donald Norcross (D-Camden/Gloucester) to create a pilot program in Camden and Morris counties designed to cut costs by allowing their governing bodies to streamline county elections positions was approved unanimously today by a Senate committee.

“This legislation will give elected officials in pilot counties the option of streamlining positions within county government to create real savings, while maintaining the integrity and oversight of the election process,” said Senator Norcross. “Moreover, it will help establish best practices for this type of consolidation going forward, as state and local governments continue to seek new and innovative ways to relieve the property-tax burden on our residents.”

The bill (S-2455) would permit freeholder boards in the pilot counties – through the adoption of an ordinance or resolution – to suspend the operations of the offices of superintendent and deputy superintendent of elections for a period of three years, and transfer their functions to the county Board of Elections. At the end of the three-year period, the freeholder board would be required to assess the pilot program and decide whether to permanently adopt the streamlined elections structure.

“County officials know best where redundancies exist within their government structures. It is our job at the state level to give them the ability to eliminate such duplication so they can create efficiencies and cut costs,” said Senator Norcross. “Creating a pilot will ensure a deliberative approach to consolidating elections functions, while at the same time giving county freeholders the tools they need to reduce expenses and save taxpayers money.”

Under the bill, freeholders in the pilot counties would be given a three-year window to take part in the program. The functions of the offices of superintendent and deputy superintendent of elections would be transferred to the Board of Elections, and the terms of the individuals in the offices would be terminated, within 90 days of the board’s vote to participate in the pilot program.

At the end of the pilot program, specifically, during the 60-day period prior to its expiration, the freeholder board would be required to prepare a report on the impact of the program to be made public and submitted the Secretary of State. Within that 60-day timeframe, the board would also have to adopt an ordinance or resolution either abolishing or re-establishing the offices of superintendent and deputy superintendent. If a county’s governing body failed to take action, the offices would be automatically abolished.

A county that permanently abolishes the offices would not be permitted to re-establish them until at least five years have passed, under the legislation. Re-establishing the offices would require the county to submit a report to the Secretary of State to include financial information proving that such a move will improve the efficiency and reduce the cost of operations. With the permission of the Secretary of State and the adoption of a new ordinance or resolution, the offices could be re-established within one year.

Currently, only the counties of Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Essex, Hudson, Mercer, Monmouth, Morris and Passaic have an office of the superintendent and deputy superintendent of elections. Office holders are appointed by the Governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate, to five-year terms. The positions are split politically – under state law the superintendent and deputy may not be from the same political party. The Christie Administration’s transition report issued on the Department of State recommended reviewing the need for the superintendent position, stating essentially that it is obsolete.

The Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee approved the measure by a vote of 4-0. It next heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for consideration.

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