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Low turnout is a feature of odd-year elections in York County

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch

When the doors to the Salvation Army polling location in York City opened at 7 a.m., election official Joseph Jackson Sr. said, he was surprised that only one person came out in the early morning to vote in this year's primary election. 

And, just before noon, that number had only reached 20 votes in Tuesday's primary election, according to Anna Berkey, a worker at the polling place. 

Not an unusual sight for primary elections, when the numbers tend to be on the lower side, said Nikki Suchanic, the director of elections and voter registration in York County.

"It doesn't surprise me," Suchanic said, adding that this primary is an "odd-year election" without high-profile statewide or federal races.

For May's election — similar to past years —  at 6 p.m. Tuesday the director predicted a 17-18% turnout rate across York County. In the 2017 primary, that rate reached 18%. 

Though the fluctuating voter numbers vary from municipality to municipality, Suchanic said some of the smaller boroughs only had a handful of voters cast ballots as of 1:30 p.m.

But primaries in York County often decide who ends up taking office.

This year, no Democrat is running for sheriff, meaning Tuesday's GOP primary contest between three-term incumbent Richard Keuerleber and Shane Becker was likely to determine who wins the seat.

In York City, four Democrats sought three open seats on the City Council. No Republicans are seeking the posts in November. 

Results were not available as of deadline. 

York County Commissioner Doug Hoke, who is running for reelection, arrives at the YMCA, York City 5 polling location, to cast his vote in York City, Tuesday, May 21, 2019. Dawn J. Sagert photo

But despite the numbers of York's primary election projecting in the low range, Jackson said he does his job to be part of a history that's "worthwhile."

"I'm proud to be a part of it," Jackson said while wearing a bright purple dress shirt, suspenders and patriotic American flag necktie. 

Voters who did cast their ballots showed they were passionate about the democratic process. 

To Robyn Randall, of Manchester Township, her primary reason for voting was to implement "good changes" in her children's school system.

With two kids, ages 6 and 11, in kindergarten and fifth grade, Randall said she voted on Tuesday to elect school board members who have policy goals of keeping extracurricular activities in the school system and paying teachers better salaries.

Similarly, Paul Miller, of North Codorus Township, said he thinks many residents came out to vote in order to have their voices heard in smaller, singular issues that affect their particular township. 

For Miller, the "Save the Police" campaign affecting North Codorus Township is one of his primary reasons for voting. 

Primary Election Day at Genesis Church, Ward 1, in North Codorus Township, Tuesday, May 21, 2019. Dawn J. Sagert photo

About six months ago, township officials announced a plan to leave the Southwestern Regional Police Department by the end of 2019. Officials said the township pays about $1 million each year for police services.

Miller, who called this year's primary a "heated contest," said he is supporting Denny Ilyes, a candidate for township supervisor and supporter of the "Save the Police" campaign.

"I'd love to see more participation in these smaller elections," Miller said. 

Standing outside Genesis Church in the North Codorus Township 1st Ward, Tanya Crawford said "the biggest impact is the local election." 

Crawford, who also voiced her support for Ilyes, said she arrived at her designated polling location as the sun was rising. Crawford encouraged residents to consider voting for candidates she supported, passing out information to those walking by. 

In York City, Karen Crosby, a candidate for county commissioner, was doing her part to encourage passersby to vote. 

"No excuses, right?" Crosby said, standing outside the Salvation Army polling location on East King Street. 

Crosby said she interacted with everybody who passed by to ensure they cast their vote. Earlier Tuesday, she assisted one voter who showed up at the wrong voting location by providing transportation to the correct one. 

Crosby, who has always had a passion for politics, said she has been voting at the same location in downtown York for more than 20 years. 

"I'm understanding the turnout is a bit low, but I'm hopeful that it'll pick up as the day goes on," Crosby said. "With this weather, there's no excuse."

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.