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Coroner votes dead on arrival

Essex County ballots have open spaces where candidates for two coroner positions are supposed to be. In fact, the county eliminated these two coroner positions. (Provided photo — Essex County Board of Elections)

When Essex County voters take a look at their ballots, they’ll see a section that asks them to vote for two county coroners, though there aren’t any candidates listed. The positions no longer exist.

That’s because the Essex County Board of Supervisors reduced the number of county coroner positions from four to two this summer, but the change came too late to take effect on the ballot, according to the county Board of Elections.

The reduction of coroner positions came after years of discussion among county supervisors on ways to reform the county’s coroner system. The system came under public scrutiny after now-former Coroner Frank Whitelaw, of Bloomingdale, shared his criticisms of the system and his experiences while in the job in 2018.

Essex County supervisors adopted a slate of new reforms to their coroner system last summer. The law, which went into effect at the start of this year, imposed new regulations and ethical standards for coroners. It also put in place a new dispatch protocol, and it changed how human remains are transported and who has the authority to order autopsies. Then the change in the number of coroner positions came this summer.

It’s not uncommon for counties to have fewer coroners. Some counties, such as neighboring Clinton County, have only one, with others available to pinch-hit if needed.

Other counties, such as neighboring Franklin County, continue to have four.

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