CALDWELL, NJ — Essex County Clerk Chris J. Durkin and President of the Caldwell Board of Health Betty Ann Sullivan were invited to the recent town council meeting held on Sept. 15 to provide information to residents of the borough.  

Durkin provided information regarding voting procedures for the Nov. 3 election while Sullivan gave an overview of the Health Department’s operations and responsibilities.

Durkin began by thanking members of the governing body for the opportunity to attend the Zoom meeting so that he can provide specific information to the residents.  Durkin stated that Governor Phil Murphy’s executive order #177 issued on August 14, 2020, has created a “Vote by Mail” process, with some exceptions to the procedure.  Durkin confirmed that any registered voter may chose to vote by provisional ballot at their polling site.  Order #177 legislates that “the November General Election shall be conducted primarily via vote-by-mail ballots, which will be sent to all ‘Active’ registered voters without the need for an application to receive a vote-by-mail ballot.”  

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It was confirmed that the Order requires county clerks to mail the ballots to active registered voters no later than 29 days before the general elections, which is October 5th.  The Essex County clerk’s office will be mailing the ballots on September 28 and Durkin confirmed they should begin to be received by September 30. If a resident has not received a ballot by October 5, they may contact the clerk’s office and request another be sent to them.

Durkin noted that there were five ways to return ballots to the county. Options include sending the ballot via the United States Postal Service, returning them to secured ballot boxes that have been provided to every community -
Caldwell’s ballot box is in front of town hall, the voter may bring the ballot to the Board of Elections located in the Hall of Records in Newark, a “bearer” or carrier may deliver the ballot to the Board of Elections or the ballot may be brought to the polling site and hand delivered to a poll worker.  Durkin advised that the most efficient method would be to deposit the ballot into a secured ballot box that are picked up daily.  The ballots will continue to be counted up to seven days after the election and they will begin to be counted 10 prior to the election day, November 3rd.

Mayor John Kelley asked Durkin to comment on the possibility that mail in voting may be “ripe for fraud.”  Durkin replied that a report submitted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to the United States Congress indicated that there was “zero proof of organized voter fraud by vote by mail.”  He continued that there was a system of checks and balances for counting votes which are conducted by a non-partisan process.

Councilman Jonathan Lace questioned if voters may confirm receipt of their ballots that had been received.  Durkin confirmed that all ballots are scanned and will be logged in.  A voter may go to the clerk’s website  and follow instructions for the link where receipt can be confirmed.

Board of Health President Betty Ann Sullivan, who has been on the board for 27 years and has served as president for the last 15 years provided a detailed overview of the department.  Sullivan noted that the services are provided by the Bloomfield Health Department in a shared services agreement with that community. The terms of the members run for three years and they are appointed by the mayor and approved by the council. The autonomous Board oversees the operations and formulates policy for the department.  In addition to Sullivan, also serving are Vice-President Rhonda DeStefano, and members Lilia Kurzum, Maria Rogers, Valerie Schleck, and Anne Marie Snedeker.   Councilman Henderson Cole serves as the council liaison.

Maria Burak, who in addition to being the Director of Human Services and Registrar of Vital Statistics for the borough also serves as the board’s secretary.  The department of human services is responsible for the day to day operations of the health department, Office of Vital Statistics, senior citizen services including transportation and the Caldwell Food Pantry.  The township of Bloomfield in addition to providing health education and environmental complaint resolution also performs the restaurant inspections.

Sullivan thanked Burak, Health Officer Mark Fitzpatrick who has taken the lead with the COVID-19 pandemic, Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Mark Guiliano, the team of nurses and the COVID-19 contact tracers, Fire Chief Andrew Pollara and Police Chief James Bongiorno as well as her fellow board members for all of their efforts on behalf of the department. Sullivan encouraged residents to review the department’s website and to take advantage of the multiple links that can be found there as a resource for residents.