York County election chief to resign, recount to come after busted election

Logan Hullinger

Nikki Suchanic, director of the York County Office of Elections and Voter Registration, will leave her post on Jan. 3 following a chaotic election on Tuesday.

But not before a recount of every ballot cast is conducted as a part of the post-election canvassing process.

Suchanic announced her resignation Friday to the county Elections Board. Her resignation, which will come before a Jan. 14 special election for state Senate, is the result of personal issues, not the election, she said.

York County Elections and Voter Registration Director Nikki Suchanic wipes a tear while resigning during a Board of Elections meeting Friday, November 8, 2019. Bill Kalina photo

"Over the past two years, I've been dealing with some personal issues, and they haven't affected my job performance at all," Suchanic said, as she began to cry. "I've been contemplating my function and my role here."

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Suchanic will mark the second key departure by a county agency head in the last month. In late October, York County 911 Center Director Jacqui Brininger announced her immediate resignation.

After the meeting, County Commissioner Doug Hoke said Suchanic's departure was cause for concern. She is slated to vacate the post less than two weeks before a Jan. 14 special election that will fill a seat vacated when former state Sen. Mike Folmer resigned after he was charged with possessing child pornography. 

The county doesn't yet know what the transition will look like if it doesn't find a replacement for Suchanic by her January departure, county spokesman Mark Walters said.

Tuesday's municipal elections were in disarray, and final results were not tallied until Thursday. As of Sunday afternoon, the results had still not been fully updated on the county's website.

Election results were delayed because of a shortage of ballot-counting scanners, which caused long lines, as well as technical glitches, incorrect paper ballot sizes and many voters not knowing how to use the new machines, officials have said.

The county plans to purchase more scanners for busier precincts. While it is unknown how many would need to be purchased, the cost of one scanner is nearly $5,000, Walters said.

On Friday, Suchanic also said there were privacy concerns at the polls and that the state needs to reform its election laws so counties aren't required to have two-page ballots, which make voting more burdensome. 

President Commissioner Susan Byrnes added there's a lack of residents willing to volunteer to staff the polls — or they're unable to because of work — causing another issue with the process. 

Eric White, who on Tuesday sought reelection on the Wrightsville Borough Council, said this election's troubles aren't over with yet, as he wasn't sure Friday if he had actually held on to his seat. 

Eric White, who sought reelection on the Wrightsville Borough Council in Tuesday's election, said he wasn't yet sure if he held his seat, during Board of Elections meeting at the York County Commissioner Chambers
Friday, November 8, 2019. Bill Kalina photo

"I'm very concerned because we have a big election coming up next year," White said of the 2020 presidential cycle. "This just can't be. We're stepping back in time here."

The state GOP on Wednesday blasted York County and the Department of State after the election troubles, saying the county's issues "revealed a complete breakdown of lawful election process, as well as unprecedented and unlawful actions by the Board of Elections and Department of State."

County officials and the Wolf administration fired back. Walters dismissed the gripes as partisan grandstanding, and a State Department spokeswoman said the allegations were lies.

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

The elections office will now conduct a recount of every ballot cast in the county as a part of its canvassing, Suchanic said. She could not say whether this is common practice because this was the first year using the machines putting out a verified paper trail.

The State Department did not immediately respond to inquiries for comment.

This year's municipal elections weren't the first problems experienced by the department over the years.

York County Elections and Voter Registration Director Nikki Suchanic holds a bag of ballots while standing amid cases loaded with them in the Elections Office at the York County Administrative Center Wednesday, November 6, 2019. Problems with the new voting procedures on Election Day required the ballots to be rescanned. Bill Kalina photo

In 2017, a technical oversight by the county's elections department allowed a single voter to cast multiple votes for a single candidate during the general election in certain races where more than one candidate was elected.

A post-election report by the county in that election said the voting machine programming error was the result of a failure to establish and execute proper internal controls.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.