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Sunday, May 19, 2024

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CMCo Registrar Mike Kennedy Talks Election Prep

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By Christopher South

COURT HOUSE – In Cape May County, registrars are responsible for the registration of all eligible voters in Cape May County. The county has two, Douglas Dunhor, a Republican and Mike Kennedy, a Democrat. Ahead of the 2022 election, the Herald interviewed Cape May County Registrar Mike Kennedy and asked about what his office is doing to prepare for the midterms. 
What are you doing to get ready for the 2022 general election?
A ton of things. We continue to update voter information, we process registrations until 21 days prior to the election and we are doing poll worker training. Last year we received all new equipment. 
Do you get a lot of returning poll workers?
We have returnees, yes, but we have to attract new workers. There was a salary increase to $300, and we overschedule because people call out. We hope to have four workers at each location.
How many voting machines are put in place for the general election?
There are 16 municipalities with 127 districts, but we have 48 locations with multiple machines because there are multiple districts in some polling places. We also have early voting locations in each of the libraries – Upper Township, Middle Township, and Lower Township. People are able to vote in the nine days prior to the election (Oct. 29 through Nov. 7). People can still complete absentee ballots. And they can get mail-in ballots 45 days prior to the general election.
In light of nationwide concern regarding the security of people’s votes and protecting them from interference, what security measures are taken with the machines while placing them, retrieving them, etc.?
None of our voting machines, our equipment, or programs, are connected to the internet in any way. We do the layout at the clerk’s office and the programming at the Board of Elections. The machines are kept at the airport across from the police department. They are delivered and picked up by employees. There are no outside workers at all. Every machine is locked and sealed. And there are things we check for that we don’t share with the public. Security is a high priority for us.
We also do everything in pairs. For every Democrat, there has to be a Republican. It’s the same in the office. For every employee, there is one Democrat and one Republican. Everything we do, both parties have an eye on it.
Are there more concerns over the physical safety of the equipment and personnel than there were in the past?
Over the last two presidential elections, we had people come in, we had phone calls, and they were, let’s say, not professional, accusing us of things that are not true. I will say, none of us feel scared coming to work. We do take the comments seriously and we try to reassure people that, in Cape May County, we are doing everything possible to protect the vote and the election and make sure the results are done fair and correctly.
Who handles the transfer of the cartridges from the voting machines?
The Board of Elections does all the recording of tallies. It’s all done through a chain of custody. We deliver supplies to the clerk’s office; they sign for it. Then, the clerk or a police officer brings it back to us. But someone always signs a chain of custody form, so we always know where it was and who handled it. 
Who handles locating duplicate ballots?
If a voter is registered and goes to the Motor Vehicle Commission, and they have moved, we get a notice to make changes up to 21 days prior to an election. If there is a conflict, we provide a provisional ballot, and our staff has a week to verify the information. We keep a close eye on people being registered at the proper place.
How do the drop boxes work?
We have installed 13 drop boxes for mail-in ballots. The drop boxes are opened the day mail-in ballots go out and we will begin to pick up the ballots Sept. 26. We will pick them up every day until election night, all the way until Nov. 8 at 8 p.m. There is a list of locations on our website. They were put in for 2020 when there was an all-mail-in election. The state paid for the installation of the boxes, and they are convenient for dropping off ballots. 
Email csouth@cmcherald.com with thoughts or information. 

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