'This can never happen again': York County commissioners get earful over election

Matt Enright
York Dispatch

Two people complained about last month's primary election — during which some local polling places ran out of ballots — and urged the York County Commissioners to get to the bottom of what went wrong.

During the public comment period at Wednesday's commissioners meeting, a mayor and state constable both criticized the May 18 primary election.

"This needs to be investigated. This can never happen again in York County. We can't ever let this happen again in York County," said John Dentler, a state constable who was working at a Washington Township polling place on Election Day.

He told the commissioners his location ran out of Republican ballots around 2 p.m. On the advice of poll workers, they began to run Republican ballots through the Americans with Disabilities Act machines. They found that the ADA machines had only about 15 sheets of paper left, meaning they had to scramble to find more. A poll worker managed to find paper and bring it from her house. 

Dentler told the board he had needed to manage the crowd and protect poll workers. He said at one point, he had gone outside to address the line. Before he could speak, a voter walked out and yelled to the line that if they were Republican, go home because they had no ballots and wouldn't get to vote. Dentler corrected that, saying that they would be able to process voters through the ADA machine.

The issues continued throughout the night. Dentler said that while he'd heard from the county that more ballots would be brought, when ballots were brought at 7:10 p.m. they were only brought a sheaf of ballots in a spring clip, not the promised box. By 7:35 p.m., they were out of ballots again.

Dentler said that although he encouraged people to stay, some inevitably left.

"The people working in this township did not believe it was an oversight," he said. "They believe it was a direct attack on rural Republican predominantly white voters in Pennsylvania and York County, which also happened all over the state, so the question is was this a collaborated event?" 

After Dentler finished speaking, President Commissioner Julie Wheeler told the crowd there would be an investigation of what transpired on Election Day. The priority is certifying the votes by June 7, the state deadline.

"Once that is completed, we will be doing a very deep dive on the details on what happened on Election Day," she said. "We'll all go on record to say that it is unacceptable and cannot happen again." 

East Prospect Mayor Matthew Mann also addressed the board, saying he hoped the commissioners would investigate the lack of ballots.

"Some things went down there that made me very uncomfortable that I'm not going to get into in a public meeting," he said of his polling location. "If there's anything you can do as the board of elections, investigate that matter."

In other business: During the meeting, the Board of Commissioners voted 3-0 to amend the 2019 York County Annual Action Plan to receive $2,114,428 for Community Development Block Grant (Coronavirus) and $1,061,680 for Emergency Solutions Grant (Coronavirus).

Joiann Galiano, the York County Planning Commission's chief of community development,  said the money was part of a second round of CARES Act funding. The block grant funding will be directed toward program administration, public services such as emergency rental assistance, and renovating a transitional facility that houses victims of domestic violence to fit more people and allow them to spread out.

The ESG funding will be directed toward operations of emergency shelters including hazard pay and provision of personal protective equipment, homeless prevention programs such as rental assistance, and an outreach program to provide essential services to unsheltered homeless people.