Despite pleas of candidate, York County certifies primary votes

Matt Enright
York Dispatch

Just four letters separated a mayoral candidate from receiving 26 write-in votes in last month's primary. And despite her attempts to receive those votes, the York County Board of Elections decided against it. 

The York County Board of Elections voted 2-1 to accept the certification of votes cast in the May 18 primary election at its meeting Monday.

Commissioner Doug Hoke voted against the certification.

At issue for Hoke was the plea from Hanover mayoral candidate Suzanne Mazzenga, who had run as a write-in candidate for the position.

Having received 42 votes in the Democratic primary, she was attempting to have 26 votes for "Suzanne Mazzaro" counted in her favor. Those 26 votes would have put her over the leading vote-getter in the category and current mayor, SueAnn Whitman. Whitman received 1,342 votes on the Republican side.

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Ashley Zurawski exits Madison Avenue Church of the Brethren after casting her vote in the primary election in York City, Tuesday, May 18, 2021. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Mazzenga asked the Board of Elections to amend the certification to delay the certification of Hanover's mayoral election. Attorney Jared Mallott, representing the York County Republican Committee and Whitman, disagreed. Citing court cases from 1952 and 2002, he argued that it was not the board's job to divine the intent of voters, noting that voters can write in any candidate.

Mazzenga will have five days to petition the Court of Common Pleas, according to county solicitor Michèlle Pokrifka. 

Hoke cited the legal principle of de minimis, which determines trifling things, in discussing his vote.

"I thought that it would be nice to probably not approve it today, and I think a judge will probably make the final decision, which probably will happen the way the vote turned out," he said. "I wasn't ready to make that decision with the de minimis situation with the names." 

Commissioners Julie Wheeler and Ron Smith said they voted in favor of certification on the advice of their legal counsel.

"Our solicitor ... gave us the legal counsel that this was not a de minimis error," Wheeler said. 

Election Day stats: Before the certification of the vote, Director of Elections Steve Ulrich provided some stats on turnout for the primary election: 

  • The May 18 election saw a turnout of 25.2% of registered voters, the highest percentage for a York County primary in a decade.
  • 49,328 Republicans, or just over 31% of the 156,335 registered Republicans in York County, cast votes in the election, in comparison with 22,600 Democrats, or about 23% of the county's 98,311 registered Democrats. 
  • Just shy of 59,000 votes were cast on Election Day, or 77%.
  • 13,275 ballots had at least one write-in name.
  • 17,365 votes, or 23%, were by mail. 43,728 Republican votes were cast at the polls, or 88.6% of all Republican votes. 44.7% of Democratic votes were cast at the polls. 

Investigation forthcoming: Now that the vote has been certified, York County will investigate why polling places ran out of ballots.

"We will certainly get back to the public with what we found," Wheeler said. "We're going to dig into the formula used to calculate the Election Day ballots, which polls ran out of ballots, whether they were more Republican or Democrat. So really doing a deep dive into the data so that we can figure out the root causes and then fix them so they don't happen again." 

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Smith said there were a lot of questions and data to be studied, noting other counties also had issues on Election Day. "But at the end of the day, we need to do our due diligence. That's how investigations are done." 

The Board of Elections also announced a recount of the Magisterial District Judge 19-1-01 race would be held at 10 a.m. Friday.