Friday, January 11, 2008

Monmouth Board of Elections is reorganized

For Immediate Release:

Consolidation will create much-needed efficiencies, save money

FREEHOLD – The Board of Chosen Freeholders has consolidated the operations of the Board of Elections and the Superintendent of Elections to create efficiencies and save taxpayer money.

Beginning today, all employees at the Board of Elections were to report to the Superintendent of Elections’ office. Both offices are located in the same building on Halls Mills Road, so a physical move is unnecessary. However, all employees now report to the Superintendent of Elections.

“After careful consideration and extensive research, the Board of Chosen Freeholders has decided to move swiftly with these transfers in order to facilitate preparations for Feb. 5 presidential primary,” Freeholder Director Lillian G. Burry said. “Because the current Superintendent of Elections had previously served as administrator of the Board of Elections, I am confident this move will correct inefficiencies that have occurred in that office with regard to the upcoming primaries.”

In reaching its decision, the Board of Chosen Freeholders relied on N.J.S.A. 19:32-51, which states that “All employees of the county Board of Elections of the county hereby are transferred to the office of the superintendent of elections, but the Board of Chosen Freeholders may provide two clerks for the county Board of Elections and fix the salary to be paid to such clerks.”

Furthermore, the freeholders are satisfied that the provision is consistent with the statutory intent of N.J.S.A. 19:32-26, which authorizes counties of the fifth class to establish a Superintendent of Elections. It is also consistent with N.J.S.A. 19:32-53, which authorizes the turnover of all voting machines and miscellaneous documents, records, supplies and materials to the Superintendent of Elections.

The consolidation will save no less than $50,000.

The restructuring was triggered by the recent failure by the Board of Elections to prepare a timely Request For Proposals for the printing of voting authority pads, which voters sign before casting their ballots. This failure resulted in a scramble by the county’s Purchasing Department to obtain informal quotes. Even though election expenses are exempt from open public bidding, it is the county’s policy to have its vendors submit bids through the fair and open process when seeking a specifiable service such as printing.

“Fortunately, the Purchasing Department was able to obtain three informal quotes, but because the Board of Elections did not make a timely request or proceed with an RFP process sooner, the Board of Freeholders was left with this dilemma,” Director Burry said. “In order to move forward with requirements of the February primaries, the freeholders had no choice but to award the printing contract to the printer who offered the lowest quote without going through open public bidding.”

Further legal research has shown that N.J.S.A. 19:6-17 specifically states, “In all counties of the first class, the county (election) board may appoint some suitable person clerk of such board.” The statute further states that, “In counties of the first class, having a population of less than 800,000, the county board may appoint up to four additional office employees.”

However, N.J.S.A. 40A:6-1 defines counties of the first class as “counties having a population of more than 550,000 and a population density of more than 3,000 persons per square mile. Although Monmouth County has more than 550,000 residents, its population density is just 1,389 persons per square mile, making Monmouth County a designated county of the fifth class.

N.J.S.A. 40A:6-1.e defines a county of the fifth class as “counties bordering the Atlantic Ocean having a population of more than 125,000.”

“As a county of the fifth class, Monmouth County does not fall under the provisions specific to counties of the first class, which means the Monmouth County Board of Election does not have the authority to hire employees,” Director Burry said. “In fact, there is no statute authorizing a Board of Elections in a county of the fifth class to hire any employees.

“The Board is confident that this consolidation will ensure that the Feb. 5 primaries and all subsequent elections are handled in the proper manner,” Director Burry added.

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