Mercer County Clerk
The Clerk's Office files and records all documents concerning real estate ownership and transfer; registers small business trade names, processes U.S. passport applications; processes and issues County and Veteran identification cards and swears in notary public applicants. The County Clerk has certain election responsibilities including the printing of ballots, counting of votes cast by electronic machines and the issuance of vote-by-mail ballots. The clerk is also empowered to perform marriage ceremonies, The clerk serves a five-year term and earned a salary of $138,954 in 2018.
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Paula Sollami Covello
In your view, what are the biggest issues facing the Clerk's Office at this time?
Why are you the best qualified to serve as County Clerk?
The County Clerk serves as the Clerk of Elections. What measures do you support to improve and secure elections and voting in the county?
Re-elect Paula Sollami Covello
While there are many challenges, I believe that my biggest challenge as Mercer County Clerk is to keep elections safe and secure so that votes are not compromised. I recognize that voting is a sacred and fundamental right in the United States and that EVERY VOTE must count. As such, I find the challenge of keeping the vote secure to be something that I must constantlly pursue as it is something that I am passionate about. I have served in leadership positions among the Statewide County Clerk's Association, and am one of two County Clerks in New Jersey selected to serve on a task force with the national homeland security department. In these meetings,we learn how to detect and react to cybersecurity threats and also to respond to physical threats that may be posed against us. These threats can be cyber attacks to the voter registration computer systems, or threats to the physical locations of our offices or to the polling locations. Hackers can attempt to alter votes virtually, or destroy the ability of voters to cast votes at polling locations.
I have been trained to be vigilant in this regard. We continuously update our software. We print extra emergency ballots and provisional ballots to run to polls in the event of a bomb threat or fire or building issue. We train our staff continuously, and we remain educated on new threats as they develop. I also continually read and train on what hackers are doing in other states and countries. In this way, I am always prepared for what may lie around the corner. I must remain vigilant and this is my largest challenge. The election laws continue to change and elections become more demanding every year. Election officials are under pressure to meet those demands. However, I feel I am more prepared than most to deal with any threat that we encounter based on my training, experience and expertise.
I feel I am best qualified to serve as County Clerk because I have the drive and ability to continually make the office stronger and bring services to the people of the Mercer County community at large. I have demonstrated my commitment to do over time and will continue to do so. When someone tells you what they want to do, I feel it is best to measure what they have done to determine sincerity and I believe I have a strong record demonstrating my commitment & ability.
As County Clerk, I have made many positive changes to the Office of the County Clerk. I implemented electronic recording of land records, worked to preserve historic land documents in the Clerk's Records Library and put an end to a lengthy lawsuit against Mercer County by eliminating a backlog in the recording of land records. I also launched two new computer systems with online record search capabilities. I have also expanded passport services to the Mercer County Connection, Mercer County's satellite office in Hamilton Township, and took passport services to the various municipalities in Mercer County. I have increased vote-by-mail participation throughout Mercer County by educating constituents on its ease and availability. More, I offer ongoing classes on notary education and a class in conjunction with Mercer County Community College on how to search the Clerk's Public Record room. I also speak on various topics to community groups on elections, property recording trends, foreclosures, and other subjects.
I am a strong advocate for obtaining voting machines with a paper trail in our County and throughout our State. I believe if New Jersey had voting machines with a paper trail, it would greatly improve election security. This simple change can make the difference between a safe and secure election, with an auditable result, or a false outcome. The fact is that voting machines are not equipped with a paper trail here, or throughout New Jersey in 2020 is unacceptable. We have a State with a highly educated population with some of the greatest educational institutions in the country and yet, we lag in our commitment to secure elections.
Additionally, I am a proponent of asking that voters update their signatures regularly. Citizens must update signatures in the Division of Motor Vehicles every few years to drive. Also, we renew a passport every ten years because our looks change. Similarly, I think voters should be sent a signature update card on a periodic basis. We have seen far too many votes discounted due to a mismatch of signatures. The signature cure measure has helped enormously this year and many votes were saved as a result. By updating signatures periodically, this simple solution could assist voters in making sure their votes count. I'm sure it could be done in a way that no one would be prohibited from voting if they didn't submit the card. But, it would be good to keep signature information current so all votes count.
Finally, I am not a proponent of internet voting and I am not a proponent of electronic poll books at this time. I feel that both of these technologies are suseptible to hacking and interference. I would be open to both of these if more secure technologies were developed in the future.
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