Measure Would Establish Program in Camden and Morris Counties
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 has been approved by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.
The bill (S-2455) would permit county freeholder boards in the pilot counties to suspend, by ordinance or resolution, the offices of superintendent and deputy superintendent of elections. If a freeholder board chooses to exercise this option, which would be available for three years following the bill’s enactment, the functions of both offices would be transferred to the county Board of Elections.
“This bill will give the freeholder boards the flexibility to streamline positions within county government 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 pilot program would be for a period of three years. Within 60 days of the program’s expiration, a participating county would be required to adopt a resolution or ordinance either abolishing or re-establishing the offices of superintendent and deputy superintendent. Once the offices have been abolished, a county would not be permitted to re-establish them until at least five years has passed. Re-establishing the offices after five years would require adoption of a new resolution or ordinance, as well as a written explanation as to the reason, a plan for re-establishment, and information as to how the move would improve the efficiency and cost of operations. Finally, re-establishment of the offices would also require the permission of the Secretary of State.
“Counties know best where redundancies exist within their government structures,” added Norcross. “It is our job at the state level to give local officials the ability to eliminate such duplication so they can achieve cost savings for their residents. This pilot will provide two counties where local officials have expressed interest in streamlining their elections positions the opportunity to make government more efficient and reduce costs.”
Currently, Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Essex, Hudson, Mercer, Monmouth, Morris and Passaic counties each have an office of the 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 in March. The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee released it Thursday by a vote of 12-0-1.