County officials: Don't blame Northeastern for long voting lines

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

Northeastern School District was not at fault for the long lines of voters outside its middle school on Election Day, which led to four-hour waits and delayed the posting of early voting returns, county officials announced.

The extra time required to provide provisional ballots to in-person voters was the primary cause of the backup at Northeastern Middle School in East Manchester Township, county officials said Friday in a joint statement with the school district.

The statement followed comments by state Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar late Tuesday alluding to the size of the cafeteria where the voting took place, which rankled Superintendent Stacey Sidle.

"Although delays at this poll continued throughout the day, the (York County Board of Elections) and school district can say without hesitation that they were a direct result of the required procedures for the casting of provisional ballots and the process for the spoiling of the mail‐in ballots," county and school officials stated.

On Wednesday, York County Commissioner Julie Wheeler had mentioned that provisional ballots might have been the issue.

The county has to follow the appropriate checks and balances before providing a provisional ballot to a voter at the polling place, Wheeler has said.

"All of those things take time," she said Wednesday. "It's a process set forth by the state that we have to follow."

Other officials suggested the issue might have been the district's insistence that the polls be placed in the cafetoria instead of the gymnasium, but Sidle pushed back on that assessment.

The cafeteria had plenty of room to accommodate everything the county requested, she said.

"The request that came to us was, they needed a space big enough for 15 privacy voting tables, five staff tables, one administrative table and three scanning machines," Sidle said in an interview Wednesday.

"We gave them everything that they originally told us they needed, with enough room for an additional three privacy tables," she added.

Wheeler said Friday the county issued its statement to set the record straight and ensure voters know the district was not at fault for the long wait at their polling place.

Voters waited up to four hours in a quarter-mile line Tuesday that stretched from the middle school past the main entrance to the high school.

Hundreds wait in line to vote at Northeastern Middle School, Tuesday, November 3, 2020
John A. Pavoncello photo

People who requested but never received their mail-in ballots had to go through a process to cast provisional ballots at their polling place. These will be counted after election officials can ensure there weren't any duplicate votes.

When voters brought their mail-in ballots to the polls and said they decided to vote in person instead, poll workers had to go through a process to verify the voter's information and spoil the mail-in ballot before giving the voter a regular ballot.

Despite the inconvenience of waiting, Wheeler and district Superintendent Stacey Sidle said people were patient and in good spirits, and they were happy to see so many people participating in the election, they stated.

The York County Board of Elections will keep reviewing the process at Northeastern Middle School to make any necessary improvements, officials stated.

More:Big turnout: About 75% of York County voters participated in election

More:Northeastern not to blame for long lines on Election Day, superintendent says