Public records--New Jersey--Monmouth County
||County Clerk's Office|
||28 cubic feet|
TABLE OF CONTENTS
SCOPE AND CONTENT
I. LEGISLATIVE HISTORY
The main responsibility of the County Clerk was, and is today, to keep records pertaining to land titles, deeds and mortgages; or more specifically to document all county business. But the County Clerk also has other duties, namely, to serve as the Clerk of Pleas and Sessions (until 1994 as the Deputy Clerk of the Superior Court) and as the Clerk of Elections.
As the Clerk of Elections, the Clerk is responsible for a number of tasks relating to election procedures, both before and after elections. Prior to the elections of State and County officials, or General Elections, all names of candidates are submitted to the Clerk of Elections. From the list of names, the Clerk prepares the final ballot. The Clerk also is responsible for the distribution of the required amount of ballots for each town to the Town Clerk before election day.
After the election, each town clerk returns the town's elections results to the Clerk of Elections, listing the names of the candidates and the number of votes received. From each town tally sheet, the Clerk prepares the County's official results, which are forwarded to the Secretary of State.
Until the early 1900s, the Clerk of Elections was, required to hold all voter registration lists for the towns within the County and to note any additions, changes, or erasures (removal of a name from the registration lists). The registration lists were returned to the respective town clerks prior to election day. Today, all voter registration lists and changes to voter records are handled through the county office of the Commissioner of Registration.
In addition, the Clerk of Elections is responsible to record and file all documents pertaining to elections when a candidate claims tampering or mistakes made in the counting of votes affecting the outcome of the election. By law, a candidate can contest an election by requesting a recount, or in some cases, an investigation.
As County Clerk, the duties previously included the recording and filing of all annual town meeting election returns, which were received from each town clerk after the annual elections. Over the years, the election of town or township officials at annual town meetings has been eliminated. Today, local officials are elected during General Elections in November. Since town elections are combined with County, State, and Federal elections, the County Clerk is no longer required to maintain separate filing and recording procedures for town elections.
In election record keeping, the last and final stage of the County Clerk's role, but as Clerk of Pleas and Sessions, was the filing of each officeholder's oath of office. Today, the County Clerk, as Deputy Clerk of the Superior Court, is responsible to witness and record oaths of office for county level positions. Oaths of office for municipal officeholders are recorded and filed by Township Clerks.
II. SCOPE AND CONTENT
The Election Returns series consists of various records pertaining to the election of State, County, and town officials and appointments to county-level offices. The six subseries that were, and are, the responsibility of the County Clerk, as the County Clerk, as the Clerk of Elections, and as the Clerk of Pleas and Sessions, are:
A. OATHS OF OFFICE, 1775-1931, Boxes 112, Microfilm Rolls 600-604
Under the 1776 Constitution, all appointed or elected county officials were required to take and sign an oath of office before assuming their responsibilities. From 1788 to 1850, each official signed their names under one blanket oath on long pieces of parchment which were held in the Clerk of Pleas and Sessions office in Freehold (as mentioned earlier, the County Clerk also served as Clerk of Pleas and Sessions). The elected or appointed official also noted the office held and the date the oath was taken. The Clerk of Pleas and Sessions witnessed each signature. Over the years, additional pages were added and tied together. Officeholders included on the 1788 to 1850 scrolls were: Court Justices, Commissioners, Justices of the Peace, Sheriffs, Surrogates, Coroners, Clerks of Pleas and Sessions, Constables, and Commissioners of Wrecks (shipwrecks).
Beginning in 1845, town officials, in addition to the elected and appointed County officials, were required to sign and file their oaths of office with the County Clerk. Each oath included specific wording relating to the particular position; therefore, each official signed an individual form. Officeholders signing oaths of office from 1845 to1931 included: Prosecutors, Assistant Prosecutors, Mosquito Commission officials, Board of Election members, Freeholders, Judges and Inspectors of Elections, Commissioners of Deeds, Commissioners of the Highways, Surveyors of the Highways, Notaries, and a variety of other elected or appointed county and town officials.
B. TOWN MEETING ELECTION RETURNS, 1780-1896, Boxes 1327, Microfilm Rolls 605-607
Town Meeting elections were held annually on the second Tuesday in March. According to law, each town clerk, within ten days after the election, was required to submit the results of the annual election to the Clerk of Pleas and Sessions. The list was to include the person elected and the office to which he was elected. The return included the positions of: Moderator, Town Clerk, Assessor, Collector, Justices of the Peace (after 1844), three Commissioners of Appeal, two Surveyors of the Highway, two Judges of Election, Overseer of the Poor, Overseers of the Highways, Constables, three Township Committee members, and poundkeepers. The number of Overseers of the Highways, Constables, and poundkeepers varied according to the number of districts in the town. Also provided on some returns were various referendums presented to the voters at each election, such as amounts of money to be allotted for the care of the poor, for schools, or for road maintenance.
Town Clerks often ignored established guidelines for the format to be used in their election reports to the County Clerk. According to law, the names of the candidates and the total number of votes received for each were to be recorded on the election return. While some town clerks followed the prescribed practice, others continued to report only the winning candidates and the office awarded.
A final determination was not included with the town clerk's election return. In cases of a tie between two candidates, it is difficult to determine the actual winner. The same is true for the offices of constables and poundkeepers, since the number of constables and poundkeepers depended on the number of districts within the town. In some cases, fourteen to twenty names were listed as candidates. Other sources, such as newspaper articles on the election, may be necessary to help identify the winners.
C. GENERAL ELECTIONS, 1784-1899, Boxes 29-42, Microfilm Rolls 609-611
In May of 1776, the Continental Congress advised each of the colonies to adopt its own government. The election of leaders by the people was a primary concern for the new nation, but the first efforts at establishing a system were relatively unstructured. It would take many years before the election process would be organized under the strict procedures and regulations in place today.
Under New Jersey's 1776 Constitution, two statewide elections were held each year. Congressional elections were held in January, although from 1800 to 1815 there was some experimentation with March, June, and November.
The second election was held on the second Tuesday of October. The yearly October election included the election of State Legislative Council members (one from each county), State General Assembly members (three from each county), County Sheriffs, and County Coroners (until 1844). By 1816, the Federal government took a stronger role in the Federal level election system, enforcing tighter procedures and controls. November was set for the election of Electors for President and Vice President, while Congressional elections would fluctuate between October and November, depending on the Presidential election.
Under the new State Constitution of 1844, one election per year was mandated on the first Tuesday in November. The November election included the election of the Governor (who, under the 1776 Constitution was elected by a joint meeting of the General Assembly and Legislative Council), State Senators, Electors of President and Vice President, members of the General Assembly and Legislative Council, Coroners, County Clerks, Sheriffs, and Surrogates.
The General Election subseries reflects each change in the election system from 1789 to 1899.
By law, town clerks were required to file the results of their township or town general elections with the Clerk of Election. Their report or town tally sheet included the name of each candidate, office, and the total votes each candidate received.
When all town returns were received, the Clerk of Elections compiled the countywide results and a Final Determination statement. The Clerk's Final Determination statement, which was forwarded to the State, also included the names of the candidates, office, and total votes each received in the County.
The General Election subseries includes each town return, the County tally sheet, and the Final Determination. There are years where a town return is missing, but the final countywide results will be reflected on the Final Determination. In cases where the Final Determination is missing for a particular year, countywide results can be determined through the individual town returns.
D. CONTESTED ELECTIONS, 1901-1909, Boxes 2627 and 43, Microfilm Rolls 607 and 611
The election system also provided laws protecting candidates who believed an error had been made in the counting of votes. Through the "Act to Regulate Elections, Revision of 1898," approved April 4, 1898, candidates were allowed to contest an election result by petitioning the Supreme Court of the State for a recount. In the petition, the candidate was required to relate all the circumstances surrounding the questionable election results and to deposit a fee with the County Clerk to cover the costs of the recount. In some cases, court hearings were held with all concerned parties.
The order for the official recount was handed down from a Supreme Court judge to the Clerk of Elections, who would notify the Board of Elections to start the process. The result of the recount was submitted to a Supreme Court judge for the final decision. If the judge's determination was in favor of the contesting candidate, a certificate was issued declaring that candidate to be the winner. The certificate was filed with the County Clerk and the fee refunded to the candidate. As the Clerk of Elections, all documents pertaining to the contested election were recorded and filed in the Clerk's office.
The following contested elections can be found within the General Election series:
1. 1896 Long Branch
2. 1901 Long Branch
3. 1902 Bradley Beach
4. 1904 Raritan Township
5. 1905 Election of High Sheriff
6. 1906 Monmouth Beach and Neptune Township
7. 1906 General Assembly Election
8. 1909 Neptune City and Raritan Township
E. APPOINTMENTS, 1800-1935, Boxes 26, 28 and 43, Microfilm Rolls 607-608 and 611
The Appointment subseries is a small collection within the Election Returns series. As mentioned above, the County Clerk, as the Clerk of Pleas and Sessions, was responsible to record and hold all information pertaining to county and municipal officeholders within the County. The Appointment subseries consists of certificates of appointments and commissions issued by the Governor. The certificates include appointments and commissions for Justices of the Peace; Commissioners; Colonel and Brigadier General in the Monmouth Brigade; and Coroners. At the County level, the appointments include County Physicians; Clerks of the Courts of Oyer & Terminer, Quarter Sessions, and Common Pleas Court; Probation officers, Sergeants at Arms; Assistant Prosecutors; and Mosquito Commission members. Other appointments at the municipal level, which were filed by the Clerk, include appointments by Town Councils for various municipal positions.
F. VOTER REGISTRATION LISTS, 1791, 1893-95; ORDERS FOR REGISTRY, 1891 and 1896, Box 28 and File Drawers 601 and 602, Microfilm Roll 608
As Clerk of Elections, the County Clerk was responsible to hold all voter registration lists, which were delivered to the Clerk's Office from the townships or towns after each election. Throughout the year, the Clerk also was required to make all corrections, additions, and erasures to the registration lists, so that the lists could be updated before they were returned to the town clerks prior to each election.
Only a small group of the voter registration lists have survived. The "List of Names of Persons entitled to the Right of Suffrage" includes the name of the registered voter and the place of residence. Included on the lists are names of voters who had been added to or erased from the list for the election.
The following Voter Registration Lists are available:
||Atlantic, Eatontown, Freehold District 2, Marlboro,|
Middletown District 3, Upper Freehold Districts 1 and 2
||Freehold Districts 1, 2, 3, 4, Howell Western District, Manalapan, Matawan, Shrewsbury|
Southern District, Upper Freehold Districts 1 and 2
As Clerk of Pleas and Sessions, the Clerk also was required to issue, record and file "Orders for Registry." If, for some reason, a voter's name was omitted from the town or township registry list, the voter was required to apply to the judges of the Common Pleas court to obtain an "Order to be registered as a voter." When the certificate was issued by the judges, the Clerk notified the Judges of Election in the voter's polling district to add the name to the registry list.
The Election Return series is available on microfilm and includes the six subseries. Each subseries is arranged as follows:
A. OATHS OF OFFICE, Microfilm Rolls 600-604
Grouped alphabetically by title of position, then chronologically within each office, and alphabetically by name in cases where two or more individuals were elected to the same office at the same time.
B. TOWN MEETINGS, Microfilm Rolls 605-607
Grouped chronologically and, within years, alphabetically by town.
C. GENERAL ELECTIONS, Microfilm Rolls 609-611
Grouped chronologically and, within years, alphabetically by town. The Final Determination statement, where available, is the last document within the year.
D. CONTESTED ELECTIONS, Microfilm Rolls 607 and 611
Grouped chronologically and, within years, alphabetically by town.
E. APPOINTMENTS, Microfilm Rolls 607-608 and 611
Grouped chronologically by year appointed, then alphabetically by office held, and alphabetically by name of appointee within office.
F. VOTER REGISTRATION LISTS and ORDERS FOR REGISTRY, Microfilm Roll 608
Voter Registration lists are arranged chronologically and, within years, alphabetically by town. Orders for Registry are arranged chronologically and, within years, alphabetically by name of voter. Names appearing on the Voter Registration lists and Orders for Registry are not listed in computer indexes.
USE OF INDEX
A computer index, to names of officeholders is available. The index includes all six subseries within the one index and provides the following information:
||name of officeholder|
||indicates place of residence of officeholder, except for County officials|
||indicates year officeholder began term of office|
||indicates year officeholder was elected or appointed to office,|
not the end of the term
||indicates whether officeholder was Appointed or Elected to the office|
||indicates County or Town official|
||indicates length of term|
||indicates in which subseries the documentation can be found|
||indicates Microfilm Roll where the documentation can be found|
||includes additional information pertaining to the officeholder|
such as resignations, deaths, and appointments to fill vacancies.
In instances where the officeholder appears in two subseries such as Town Meetings and Oaths,
the location for all documentation is provided
Requests for special indexes will be considered by the Archives' staff and, if approved, will require at least twenty-four hours to produce.