After election fiasco, Mercer County, NJ head calls for sweeping reforms
TRENTON — The county executive of Mercer County is calling for several major reforms to local elections following a series of issues including broken voting machines and thousands of missing ballots.
In a statement four days after Tuesday's midterm elections, County Executive Brian Hughes, a Democrat, called for a "comprehensive overhaul" to how the county operates its elections.
“After issues in the last two elections, I have come to the conclusion that we must fundamentally change the management of the election process in Mercer County because it is clearly not working,” Hughes said on Saturday.
Proposed Mercer election reforms
The first step in Hughes' proposed plan is to have a special meeting among top county officials so they can explain to the public what went wrong.
Next, the executive called for merging the Office of the Superintendent and the Commissioner Board so that a single director oversees elections.
The statement also called on state lawmakers to "enact changes" to allow the county to reform its election system. It's not clear what changes to state law would be needed or what exactly the county would do when it was granted the power to make reforms.
Mercer County election issues
The problems started Tuesday morning when Dominion voting machines throughout all 232 voting districts would not accept paper ballots. Instead, voters were told to fill out the ballots with sharpies and place them in a special emergency slot in the machines.
Dominion, Royal Printing Service, and Mercer County officials all denied responsibility to New Jersey 101.5 for the problem. The root cause of the issue is still under investigation.
Additionally, potentially thousands of ballots were misplaced throughout the county. Robbinsville Mayor Dave Fried said ballots in at least one district disappeared. And the New Jersey Globe reported that up to 3,200 ballots from three districts in Princeton were unaccounted for.
County Clerk Paula Sollami-Covello confirmed Thursday morning that all the ballots had been found and were being counted.
Prosecutors investigate Mercer elections
Sollami-Covello also called for the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office to investigate the issues on and following Election Day. Hughes offered his support for his fellow elected Democrat's request for a probe.
“I pledge to you that we will get to the bottom of this and that every vote will be counted,” Hughes said. He said the county should make any county resource available to "hasten and conclude" the investigation.