Wolf admin official rips state GOP over York County election fracas

Dispatch Staff
Temporary county worker Doris Feeser sorts and stores items returned from polling sites at the Elections and Voters Office at the York County Administration Building Thursday, November 7, 2019. The final vote tally was released earlier that morning after glitches with the new voting procedure on Tuesday delayed the count. Bill Kalina photo

An official with Gov. Tom Wolf's administration blasted the state Republican Party on Thursday for alleging the Democratic governor had suppressed the vote in York County by mandating new voting machines.

State GOP attorneys descended on York County on Tuesday night amid a chaotic municipal election that featured long waits at the polls and many technical glitches, which delayed the release of results until Thursday morning.

"That's a lie," said Wanda Murren, spokeswoman for the state Department of State. 

On Tuesday night, Republicans threatened to seek an injunction of the election results and further legal action against the Wolf administration, including the Department of State and Board of Elections.

"We are working our butts off to keep people's faith that elections are fair and their votes are counted," Murren said. 

State GOP attorney Rebecca Warren and GOP Deputy Executive Director Charlie O'Neill speak during a press conference at the York County Administrative Center on Election Day Tuesday, November 5, 2019. The Republican Party announced it's preparing to file an injunction to ensure the safety of uncounted ballots in with wake of irregularities with the state's new voting procedures. Bill Kalina photo

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Republican Party officials said that the new voting machines were the result of an unfunded mandate handed down by Wolf. Earlier this year, negotiations between Wolf and Republican state lawmakers over boosting funding for voting machines broke down after lawmakers inserted the cash into legislation that would have also ended straight-ticket voting. 

No injunction was filed, though, after county officials reached an agreement with the state GOP over how to count the votes from two precincts where the issues were especially pronounced. 

"I'm still waiting to see it," Murren said of the lawsuit threat. 

The state GOP's media conference Tuesday night didn't sit well with county officials either, who also considered it a counterproductive political stunt.

County spokesman Mark Walters described it as "100% political posturing" and an attempt to "shove it in the governor's face."

County Commissioner Susan Byrnes, a Republican, said she was offended by the state GOP's partisan response to York County's voting problems.

The new machines were mandated throughout the state as part of a settlement with former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and are considered a key part of election security since they produce a paper trail.

Officials from the county's Republican and Democratic parties have said the county needs to invest in more voting machines prior to the 2020 presidential election cycle.