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Elections run much smoother this time, York County voters say

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

Voting seemed to go more smoothly in Tuesday's primary at some of the polling places that had problems in the Nov. 5 municipal election, likely thanks to changes made by the York County Board of Commissioners and the county Board of Elections.

East Manchester Township voters said their new polling place at Northeastern Middle School was a big improvement over voting at Starview United Church of Christ in November, where there was only one ballot scanning machine, leading to long wait times. Results were delayed for days. 

"I think this was a very good choice for us and for the community," said Cindy Catalano, who voted at the middle school. "I really do hope it stays here."

The county commissioners voted to buy several additional ballot scanners to make the process more efficient, and the board permanently relocated about a dozen polling places and redistricted one election precinct to address capacity and parking issues.

Several other polling places were temporarily changed for the June 2 primary to accommodate health and safety precautions necessitated by the COVID-19 outbreak, which is still ongoing in York County and across the state.

This time in East Manchester Township, there were four ballot scanners, Catalano said, and there was plenty of room to sit and fill out the ballots.

Last November, she said, she waited at least an hour before she was able to scan her ballot.

Even though there weren't as many people voting Tuesday as there were in November, Catalano said she expects the line would still move quickly with higher turnout at the middle school, such as during the upcoming Nov. 3 presidential election.

Cindy Catalano, of East Manchester Township, talks about her voting experience during Primary Election Day at Northeastern Middle School in Manchester, Tuesday, June 2, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

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Greg Moomaw, also of East Manchester Township, said the middle school was a big improvement over the church as a polling place.

Moomaw said he waited in line for four to five hours to vote in November, but this time around, it was "a piece of cake," he said.

Greg Moomaw leaves his polling location during Primary Election Day at Northeastern Middle School in Manchester, Tuesday, June 2, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Democrats had a few consequential primaries to decide Tuesday, most notably the nomination for the Democratic candidate who will run against U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-Carroll Township, in the race for Pennsylvania's 10th Congressional District.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale is running against attorney Tom Brier of Hershey for the congressional nomination.

Democrats in southern York County voted for their nominee for the 11th Congressional District, who will run against U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster, in the general election.

And Democrats across the state voted for a crowded field of six nominees to replace DePasquale, whose second term ends this year. The nominee will face Republican candidate Timothy DeFoor, who ran unopposed in Tuesday's primary.

There was also the Democratic presidential primary, in which Vice President Joe Biden has already been declared the presumptive nominee. Also on the ballot were Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii.

Republicans had a simpler task, with Smucker, Perry and several incumbent state legislators running unopposed, and President Donald Trump running for a second term.

GOP voters did have to decide who to send to the Republican National Convention as delegates.

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Pandemic voting: Safety of voters and poll workers was a priority at the polls.

Most people wore masks inside their polling places, and county officials have said each polling place would maintain social distancing and have hand sanitizer stations for voters who wished to use them before and after voting.

Poll workers were also provided with personal protective equipment.

Another precaution taken by state and local officials was for people not to vote in person at all.

There's been a major push the past several weeks for voters to apply for mail-in ballots so they wouldn't have to go to the polls and potentially expose themselves or others to the coronavirus.

From left, York County purchasing director Tina Blessing looks on as Abrianna Wohlfeil, of Hellam Township, is assisted by York County Commissioner Ron Smith as she inserts her ballot into a secured drop box at the York County Administration Center on East Market Street in York City, Tuesday, June 2, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Statewide, more than 1.8 million people applied for mail-in ballots.

More than 54,000 people in York County, or about 19% of the county's registered voters, applied for mail-in ballots for the primary.

As of 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, about 38,000 people had returned their mail-in ballots to the county, said Steve Ulrich, director of the York County Department of Elections and Voter Registration.

Turnout data was not yet available as of 6:30 p.m., officials said. 

The county likely won't release results until Wednesday, Ulrich said, in part because of the unprecedented number of mail-in ballots that are being counted, but also because of the protests in downtown York City over the death of George Floyd.

Floyd, a black man, died in Minneapolis last week after a white police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes as Floyd tried to tell officers he couldn't breathe.

Protests and riots have broken out across the country for several days in a row.

Ulrich said his department might direct the judges of elections to take the ballots to the county's Pleasant Valley Road building in Springettsbury Township instead of the administrative center downtown, because they might not be able to access the building easily during the protest.

He said county officials will be at the Pleasant Valley Road building to collect the ballots and bring them back to the administrative center in county-owned trucks.

"The chain of custody will be protected," Ulrich said.

Newly hired Elections Director Steve Ulrich at the York County Administrative Center in York City, Friday, Jan. 10, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Provisional ballots: Not everyone who applied for a mail-in ballot received the ballot in time to fill it out and return it to the county elections department before the deadline at 8 p.m. Tuesday.  

And some who did receive their ballots decided to vote in person anyway by casting a provisional ballot at the polls.

Judy Delp, left, and David Smith, both of Springettsbury Township, arrive to cast their vote at Commonwealth Fire Company #1 during Primary Election Day in Springettsbury Township, Tuesday, June 2, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Judy Delp and David Smith, both of Springettsbury Township, received their mail-in ballots Monday but said they decided to cast provisional ballots in-person Tuesday at Commonwealth Fire Co. No. 1.

Delp said she preferred the old voting machines, and Smith said the process for casting a provisional ballot was confusing, but other than that, they said they didn't have any problems voting.

"All the years we've been voting here, it's been easy," Smith said.

Jeffrey Wagaman exits his polling location, Commonwealth Fire Company #1, during Primary Election Day in Springettsbury Township, Tuesday, June 2, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Jeffrey Wagaman, also of Springettsbury Township, said he voted with a regular ballot Tuesday but that he plans to vote by mail for the general election Nov. 3.

He said there was a long wait to vote at the fire company in last November's municipal election, but he attributed that to his arrival during a busy period.

"Year after year, it seems like I get here at the wrong time," he said.

In York City, the county commissioners relocated six polling places, five of which were consolidated at the York Expo Center's Memorial Hall.

Barry Fuhrman, of York City, said he usually votes at the Princess Street Center, but the 72-year-old walked over to Memorial Hall to cast his ballot Tuesday.

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York City School Board President Margie Orr, left, talks Kacey French, candidate for state representative in the 95th District, after Orr cast her vote during the Primary Election at Memorial Hall in West Manchester Township, Tuesday, June 2, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

"I always prefer to vote in person," he said, adding that he liked the setup inside.

Margie Orr, of York City, who sits on the York City school board, also voted at Memorial Hall. She said she applied for a mail-in ballot back in March but never received it, so she cast a provisional ballot.

"They need to improve getting the mail-in ballots out," she said.

Orr said the county could have done a better job advertising the change in polling places and that there should have been signs throughout the city to tell voters where to go Tuesday.

But she also said she was pleasantly surprised with the setup at Memorial Hall and that the voting process went smoothly.