Push on to divvy up voting districts in York County after chaotic election
York County plans to create 23 new voting districts to ease polling place congestion in time for Pennsylvania's presidential primary in April, county officials said Wednesday.
The move comes after a less-than-stellar rollout of the county's new voting machines in the Nov. 5 municipal election. There was only one ballot scanning machine at each polling place, which left voters waiting in long lines.
Other issues such as torn ballots and widespread confusion resulted in a vote recount and threats of a lawsuit, and the election's results weren't known for two days.
"We’ve already reached out to some of these municipalities and got recommendations on polling places," said Nikki Suchanic, the county's outgoing director of Elections and Voter Registration.
The county will ask the Pennsylvania Department of State to approve the new voting districts before submitting a petition to the York County Court of Common Pleas.
Suchanic discussed the proposed new voting districts Wednesday, Dec. 18, at a meeting of the York County Board of Elections.
Carroll Township has more than 4,000 registered voters and only one voting district. Under the new plan, there would be three voting districts serving 1,300 to 1,400 voters each.
Dover Township has more than 13,000 registered voters and only four voting districts. Under the new plan, there would be 10 voting districts serving about 1,200 voters each.
East Manchester Township has nearly 5,000 registered voters and only one voting district. Under the new plan, there would be three voting districts serving 1,400 to 1,600 voters each.
Fairview Township has more than 11,500 registered voters and only four voting districts. Under the new plan, there would be 10 voting districts serving 1,100 to 1,200 voters each.
Springfield Township has more than 4,000 registered voters and only one voting district. Under the new plan, there would be three voting districts serving about 1,200 voters each.
And West Manheim Township has about 5,000 registered voters and only one voting district. Under the new plan, there would be four voting districts serving about 1,200 voters each.
The recommendations for each district came from BonData, a consulting firm in Hummelstown, Dauphin County.
Technically, the law doesn't allow redistricting requests during a census year, and 2020 is a census year, said York County Solicitor Michelle Pokrifka.
But there's an exception in the law that would allow the change because the new voting districts will not cross the established census-guided municipal boundaries, Pokrifka said.
"We’re maintaining those census guidelines and just breaking up that district within itself," she said.
York County Commissioner Doug Hoke brought up another potential issue with the new voting districts.
"We currently have some problems in finding polling places and election workers," Hoke said. "When we pass this motion, are we dedicated ... to making sure we find these places and have them available in the next election cycle, or not?"
Suchanic said the goal is to have the new polling places ready for the presidential primary in April and that her office plans to ask York County's state legislators for help recruiting Election Day workers to staff each polling place.
New voting districts mean the county will have to buy new ballot-scanning machines, said Mark Derr, county administrator.
County spokesman Mark Walters said the county plans to have more than one ballot scanner at each polling place in future elections, beginning with two scanners per polling place for the Jan. 14 special election in the 48th Senate District, which covers Lebanon County and portions of Dauphin and York counties.
The exact number of new machines needed for future countywide elections is still unknown, Walters said. The price will be negotiated, he added.
In the last voting machine purchase back in June, the county paid $1.4 million to Dominion Voting Systems for 360 new voting machines, voter booths, licenses and related services.
Half the machines were regular ballot scanners, and the other half complied with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Each county polling place had one of each machine during the Nov. 5 election.