Bill Would Eliminate County Clerks of the Peace as Elected Offices

HB 405 is first leg of constitutional amendment; plan calls for maintaining marriage bureaus in all three counties



DOVER – Bipartisan legislation that would eliminate elected county clerks of the peace was introduced in the House Thursday with the support of the existing three county clerks.

Sponsored by Rep. Dennis E. Williams and supported by leaders of all four caucuses, House Bill 405 is the first leg of a constitutional amendment eliminating language referring to the county-elected clerks. Constitutional amendments must be passed by two consecutive General Assemblies. If HB 405 passes this year in the 147th General Assembly, an identical version of it must pass in the 148th General Assembly, which would begin in January 2015.

“This is a proposal that came to us from the three county clerks and will have a savings for taxpayers,” said Rep. Williams, D-Claymont/Talleyville. “The clerks of the peace are elected at the county level, but their services – issuing state marriage licenses, maintaining records of  marriage licenses and performing civil marriages – are all done for the state. The clerks feel that this is the right time to consolidate the offices into the state, and I agree.”

If HB 405 passes, a bill will be filed alongside the second leg of the constitutional amendment with implementation language maintaining a marriage bureau in each county under the Department of Health and Social Services. The elected offices would be eliminated in 2017, after the current clerks’ elected terms end.

In 2001, the General Assembly approved legislation making the register in chancery for all three counties appointed state positions. County prothonotaries became part of the state Superior Court system in 1993.