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Northeastern buildings will remain poll sites, school board says

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

The Northeastern School District will continue to allow its buildings to be used as polling places after voters at the middle school experienced long lines during the Nov. 3 election.

The school board voted 7-0 Monday night to reject a motion to eliminate voting at any district building starting in the 2021-22 academic year. Board members also agreed that there should be multiple polling locations in future elections, as Northeastern Middle School was the sole polling place for East Manchester Township. 

The lines at the school during the Nov. 3 general election stretched for a quarter mile throughout the day, and some voters said they waited up to four hours to vote. York County officials delayed releasing countywide results until after 10 p.m., when the last person waiting at the middle school made it to the front of the line.

County officials originally wanted to use the school's gymnasium for the election, but instead the voting area was in the cafeteria, which is smaller. Superintendent Stacey Sidle said the district doesn't usually rent out the gymnasium because of the cost to refinish the floor and the potential wear and tear from extra foot traffic.

Because of extra safety precautions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, every person had to be filtered through a single doorway to the cafeteria. Sidle said she heard reports claiming the reason it took so long to move through the line was that the poll workers only allowed 25 people inside the cafeteria at a time. 

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

Following the election, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar mentioned the issues at the school and said it was her understanding the space provided by the district was too small for people to vote efficiently while also maintaining social distancing. Sidle denied these claims. 

"We gave them everything that (the county) originally told us they needed," Sidle said. 

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

Board member Vanessa Snell said she doesn't anticipate the district will encounter similar problems in future elections, as the Nov. 3 election, which included a hotly contested presidential race, saw an increase in voter turnout. York County had a voter turnout rate of nearly 75%. 

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

Board member Constance Koerner said the district also will likely not have the same obstacles in future elections of cleaning and social distancing that the COVID-19 pandemic created. 

"I just think this was an anomaly for an election year," Snell said.