What's on the County Ballot?
Take a closer look at the offices you'll soon be voting to fill in Montgomery County.
When you duck into the voting booth on Nov. 8, you’ll see a number of county election choices on the ballot. A county clerk of courts, a prothonotary and even a recorder of deeds will be just a few of the positions for which you’ll be asked to select candidates. If you're used to only voting in presidential or gubernatorial elections, you may wonder what some of these offices do.
Patch is here to help you sort out those confusing titles, and tell you exactly what purpose each role serves in Montgomery County. In this first of a two-part series, we’ll take a close look at the different positions and exactly what they mean to you as a county resident.
Court of Common Pleas
First up is the Court of Common Pleas Judge. This role, for what is called the “38th judicial district.” That, in short, is a fancy name for Montgomery County. The county is the 38th judicial district of the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania. According to the Montgomery County Courts’ Web site, there are 23 full-time judges in the Court of Common Pleas. There are 30 Magisterial District Judge courts in the Montgomery County district.
Overall, the Court of Common Pleas is broken into divisions including judges, civil, criminal, family, juvenile and orphans cases. The judges are lead by the Hon. Richard J. Hodgson, called “The President Judge.”
Judges’ jobs seem more straight forward, but in summary, they are tasked with “implementing policies,” managing juries and hearing cases in the courts.
The Montgomery County Board of Commissioners has the job of managing county government.
“As the county commissioners, we oversee a government with annual revenues and expenditures in excess of $500 million,” says the Commissioners’ website. That government administers many services that you encounter on a regular basis. “The array of services and programs we provide our citizens include parks and historic sites, featuring a network of recreational trails, a criminal justice system and judiciary recognized as one of the Commonwealth’s finest, a highly regarded community college and a host of human services,” the website says.
There are three commissioners on the board. Voters select two candidates from four nominees, and the top three vote recipients are seated.
Clerk of Courts
The Clerk of Courts has an important job: to manage custody of all original court case records. The Clerk also has to collect bail money in criminal cases and return it to the “surety” (for example, a bail bondsman) upon completion of court action.
The Clerk of Courts maintains records relating to the division of election districts as well as the appointment of election officials, constables and private detectives, according to the department's website.
The public is permitted to access case information with the Clerk of Courts office during normal business hours (from 8:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Monday through Friday). You can also check online now through the office’s link to view criminal history via court records.
Have you ever wondered how or why we spend our county’s tax dollars? The position of the County Controller doesn’t have to wonder. The controller is charged with ensuring that the county's money is “spent properly and efficiently,” according to the office’s site.
“The Controller’s Office is mainly the guardian of the public trust and our job is to preserve the basic faith in our county government,” said current Controller Diane B. Morgan.
In more technical terms, the department has general supervision over all fiscal affairs in the County, including general accounting, accounts payable, internal audit, payroll and retirement funds.
By law, the coroner is tasked to investigate and certify deaths, including those of natural causes. In short, take some time picking this position out. They may be examining you someday!
“The coroner can utilize any and all medicolegal investigative techniques, including an autopsy, to establish both the medical cause of death, and mode or manner of death (natural, accident, homicide, suicide or undetermined),” according to the position’s Web site.
A coroner also has tasks such as notifying next of kin, granting cremation permits, caring for the deceased’s possessions, maintaining records for the public, identifying deceased persons, and also interment of unclaimed bodies.
For more on the positions you'll see listed in the voting booth on Nov. 8, see part two on this series on Patch.