How Clerks Keep Local Elections Running Smoothly


If it’s the first Tuesday (after the first Monday) in November, it’s Election Day somewhere in America. In odd-numbered years, that often means it’s time for municipal elections.

While elected officials make the headlines, city clerks play a crucial role in making sure local elections are properly run and conducted in a fair manner. Here are just a few ways that they keep democracy humming along:

Process candidate filings and campaign disclosures: Whether it’s the mayor, city council or another elected board, the city clerk is responsible for ensuring that candidates are eligible to run for office, process the necessary paperwork to get them on the ballot and collect regular campaign finance forms.

Ensure the vote follows election law: Do polling locations meet the legal requirements for accessibility? Does each precinct have the correct list of eligible voters and the equipment to process votes? All of these tasks are under the purview of the city clerk.

Handle absentee voting requests: If a jurisdiction allows absentee or early voting, the city clerk is tasked with executing it properly, including potentially reaching out to facilities such as hospitals and nursing homes where a large number of people might be unable to make it to their polling location.

Update citizens about voting day changes: Poll lines back up, voting machines break and precincts sometimes need to be moved. A clerk helps keep everyone—from candidates to citizens—informed about up-to-the-minute changes.

Certify election results: Once election judges have tallied totals at each precinct, the results are sent to the city clerk who must certify the results before passing them along to the appropriate authorities (such as the county or state), collect any final campaign finance forms and issue a certificate of election to a winning candidate. City clerks often also administer the oath of office to winners.

As you can see, the role of the city clerk is vital to keep elections free and fair. So if you do go out to vote today—and you should!—remember that it’s all possible because of a humble civil servant working diligently behind the scenes.

Looking for more insight into the day-to-day life of clerk? Download “Managing the Unintentional Roles of the Clerk” guide now!

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