By PJ Martin
In the past weeks, we have published the filing requirements for the county/city offices and a basic summary of the job duties for each. This week we will give a more comprehensive look at the county clerk’s office since there have been more questions about that specifically.
The county clerk’s office is a busy place that most are familiar with when paying their vehicle tax and license for the year, but they take care of much, much more.
The county clerk is a notary public and can also delegate the power of a notary to a deputy at the office.
Per the Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) the clerk and his/her deputies register all motor vehicles owned by people residing in their county. They issue automobile licenses and report to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. All vehicles including motorcycles are renewed each year based on the owner’s birth month.
Yearly motorboat/watercraft registrations and licenses are issued by the county clerk’s office. If the watercraft is used as a residence or a business in some way it must be licensed by the clerk’s office as such.
The office works in coordination with the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources selling hunting and fishing licenses. Some counties request opting out of this duty from the Dept of Fish and Wildlife through specific paperwork.
If a county has an alcoholic beverage license fee/permit those are paid at the clerk’s office in some states.
Anyone who manages or leases a public grain warehouse can only do business after obtaining a grain warehouseman’s license for that year from the county clerk’s office.
State law allows county governments to regulate certain types of retail and entertainment businesses through licensing. If allowed by the county, those applications are filed with the clerk’s office.
Marriage licenses are issued by the county clerk’s office. Those records are also filed and recorded by the office.
The county clerk’s office is in charge of recording and storing many types of documents such as real estate sales, liens, deeds, mortgages of real estate, powers of attorney, wills, mechanical liens, affidavits of descent, sale contracts for real estate, leases, maps, surveys, and plats. The office keeps indexed files of these items.
According to Kentucky’s Business Corporation Act, a copy of all documents filed to register a corporation within the county with the Secretary of State must also be filed with the county clerk.
The county clerk serves as chair of the county board of elections. The board consists of the sheriff and 2 appointed members chosen by the state board of elections. The board records are public and stored at the clerk’s office.
The KRS rules and regulations are very specific on anything pertaining to elections. For example:
KRS 119.015 Clerk making or permitting wrongful registration, or failing, or refusing to deliver copies of registrations records.
Any county clerk or deputy county clerk who falsely or fraudulently registers the name of any person, or permits any person to register knowing that the person is not entitled to register, or who fails or refuses to deliver copies of the registration records to a person entitled thereto, shall be guilty of a Class D felony.
The office receives applications and maintains voter registration records. The applications for registration, change of party, transfer, or an absentee ballot must be verified by a written declaration under penalty of perjury per KRS.
If a voter moves residence to another location within the county, the clerk’s office moves that voter’s registration to the correct precinct upon receiving proper notice.
Registration records can be accessed by the public and copied without cost, but commercial use is prohibited.
Candidates for county or city offices must file their certificates and petitions of nomination with the clerk’s office and pay all fees required. These documents must be saved for no less than 6 months after the election. The ballot order is determined by lot at a public drawing at the clerk’s office.
The clerk must publish the ballot before the election in the newspaper of record for that county. The clerk must also print and insert the ballots in the machines (depending on machine type). He/she is also responsible for printing, sealing, and mailing absentee ballots in accordance with KRS rules. Once voted and returned those ballots must be kept in a box with 3 locks until counting occurs.
The clerk is responsible for verifying the voting machine counters are set to zero, the machine keys are delivered to the board of elections who must inspect the machines, and sign the record.
Except during active election days, the clerk is responsible for the county voting machines assuring they are stored, protected, and unharmed.
Keep reading the Herald-News for a more detailed look at other county positions in the weeks to come.