Mercer County, NJ head calls for sweeping election reforms

TRENTON — The Mercer County District Executive is calling for several sweeping reforms to the local elections after a slew of problems including broken voting machines and thousands of missing ballots.

In a statement four days after Tuesday’s midterm elections, county Democrat Brian Hughes called for a “major overhaul” of how the county is conducting its elections.

“After problems in the last two elections, I’ve come to the conclusion that we need to fundamentally change how the Mercer County electoral process is administered because it’s clearly not working,” Hughes said Saturday.

Sign at Sayen School in Hamilton (Mercer) 11/08/22

Sign at Sayen School in Hamilton (Mercer) 11/8/22 (listener submitted)

Proposed Mercer electoral reforms

The first step in Hughes’ proposed plan is to hold a special meeting among top county officials so they can explain to the public what went wrong.

Next, the executive branch called for the Office of the Superintendent and the Commissioner Board to be merged so that a single director oversees the elections.

The statement also called on state legislatures to “make changes” to allow the county to reform its voting system. It’s not clear what changes to state law would be required or what exactly the county would do if given the power to implement reforms.

Electoral Issues in Mercer County

Trouble began Tuesday morning when Dominion voting machines in all 232 constituencies refused to accept paper ballots. Instead, voters were told to fill out ballots with felt-tipped pens and place them in a special emergency slot in the machines.

Dominion, Royal Printing Service, and Mercer County officials all denied responsibility for the issue to New Jersey 101.5. The root cause of the problem is still under investigation.

READ MORE: Dominion, Drucker, Mercer County give buck on NJ voting bug

Additionally, thousands of ballots may have been misplaced across the county. Robbinsville Mayor Dave Fried said ballots had disappeared in at least one county. And the New Jersey Globe reported that up to 3,200 ballots from three Princeton counties were disregarded.

District Secretary Paula Sollami-Covello confirmed Thursday morning that all ballots had been found and were being counted.

Prosecutors investigate Mercer election

Sollami-Covello also asked the Mercer County Attorney’s Office to investigate the matter on and after Election Day. Hughes offered his support for his Democrat-elect’s request for an investigation.

READ MORE: Was it criminal? NJ law enforcement is investigating a major mess of voting machines

“I promise we’ll get to the bottom of this and every vote will be counted,” Hughes said. He said the county should provide all county resources to “expedite and complete” the investigation.

Rick Rickman is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]

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