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County Clerk Delivers Annual Report

County Clerk Rita Fulginiti provides an annual update to freeholders Jan. 29.

By Erin Ledwon

CREST HAVEN – County Clerk Rita Fulginiti reported an increase in revenue, in 2019, during her annual report to freeholders Jan. 29.
She noted revenue to the county was $6.1 million, up from $5.9 million in 2018, based on 51,162 transactions. Total receipts collected were $39.7 million, of which $33.6 million went to the state.
Mail-in Ballots
Fulginiti mentioned what she termed “the saga of the mail-in ballots.” She explained that voters who voted by mail in 2016, 2017 and 2018 were added to the list of mail-in ballots for all future elections, per provisions in the state’s mail-in ballot law, which grew the list from 3,300 to 8,000.
The New Jersey Council on Local Mandates overturned that law (http://bit.ly/39diS6z); however, the Legislature found the funds and put the bill back, according to Fulginiti, “so, we will still have a very large mail-in ballot list.”
Voters who are scheduled to automatically receive a mail-in ballot may opt-out in writing, said Fulginiti. An opt-out form is available at http://bit.ly/2vbYrrU.
Once a voter is provided a mail-in ballot, they can’t vote at the polls, she continued. If they go to the polls, they will be given a provisional ballot.
She said that she’s printing more provisional ballots, citing increased printing costs. She also noted that mail-in ballots cost $2 each, and “it’s a very expensive way of providing ballots,” especially during a presidential election, which can see a 79% to 80% voter turnout.
Election Security
The Clerk’s Office participated in a tabletop exercise, in Trenton, Sept. 10, 2019, along with the county Board of Elections, county Office of Emergency Management, county Prosecutor’s Office and county Management Information Services.
New Jersey Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Cell and the New Jersey Division of Elections had many exercises that “got the team working what ifs,” said Fulginiti. She noted the Continuity of Operations Plan was updated as a result.
“Election security is such a big issue, and so important for all of us,” she added.
2020 Election
This year is a huge election year, with the presidential election, said Fulginiti. She said the statewide voter registration system changed vendors, and new election software is being implemented.
Help Homeless
Freeholders established the Homelessness Trust Fund, in December 2016, to help end homelessness by 2027, according to previous reports (http://bit.ly/31wOnG9). A $3 surcharge was imposed on documents processed by the Clerk’s Office to bolster the fund.
The board increased the surcharge to $5, effective Sept. 1, 2019.
Fulginiti reported $100,377 was collected in 2019, bringing the total amount to $250,032.
Driver’s Licenses for Illegal Aliens
Freeholder Director Gerald Thornton asked whether illegal aliens getting driver’s licenses was generating voter registrations. Fulginiti responded she was investigating that.
“If they were in the country legally, they could get an international driver’s license very easily, but because they’re not in the country legally, there’s a provision that was put into law, so it’s a cause of concern,” she said.
Thornton said to get a driver’s license, he needs four to five pieces of documentation. “Are these illegal aliens providing four to five pieces of documentation,” he asked.
“No,” responded Fulginiti.
“This is going to be a nightmare,” concluded Thornton.
eRecording Fee
An eRecording convenience fee was implemented in 2017, according to Fulginiti. Her office was collecting $2 per transaction for every document that was electronically recorded.
Collections were suspended April 1, 2019, following an Appellate Court decision in the case of New Jersey Land Title Association v. Dana Rone, County Register of the County of Essex.
Arguments were heard, in January 2020, in the New Jersey Supreme Court. “We await their decision,” said Fulginiti.
She explained that funds collected were being used to offset the cost that was intended to be borne by those benefiting from the service.
“I don’t quite understand why a convenience fee can’t be charged,” said Fulginiti, noting that the notary division charges a convenience fee for notaries to apply electronically.
100-year Anniversaries
As County Historian, Fulginiti highlighted significant anniversaries in 2020, including the Volstead Act, or the National Prohibition Act, which was enacted Jan. 17, 1920.
“Cape May County was the Wild West of the Volstead Act,” she said. “People didn’t agree with it, and court records show that.”
Fulginiti also noted that it’s been 100 years since the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guaranteed women the right to vote.
She cited an article, from 1911, mentioning male suffragettes, which had an editorial comment about the need for Election Day gowns should the men secure suffrage for the women “because, of course, no lady would vote unless properly attired…”
Fulginiti added that she’s working on a project, along with her team, which would look at “what was happening locally with the suffragettes, as this was happening nationally.”

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