Recount OK'd in Central York school board race; more write-ins to count in other races

Erin Bamer
York Dispatch

York County elections officials approved a recount for a Central York school board race that came down to just 23 votes. 

The board approved a full recount of the race on Nov. 29, as well as requests to count additional write-in ballots for multiple candidates vying for seats on South Western and South Eastern's school boards. 

The county must certify the election results and submit them to the state by Monday. However, Deputy Elections Director Steve Ulrich said a recount can still happen afterward. 

The Elections Office's top priority is a statewide recount in the judge of the Commonwealth Court race. That recount commenced Wednesday, with results to be submitted to the state no later than noon Tuesday.

More:York County delays certification of key school board race

The Central York race has eight candidates fighting for four open board seats. According

to the latest results, Democrat Rebecca Riek edged out Republican Faith Casale for the fourth spot by just 23 votes, receiving 4,948 votes to Casale's 4,925. On election night, Casale was ahead of Riek by four votes, before provisional ballots pushed Riek ahead. 

Additionally, Democrats Corey Thurman and Amy Milsten, along with GOP incumbent Tim Strickler, earned enough votes to win seats. Casale requested a recount Wednesday. 

The Central York school board race was an outlier in a Republican-dominated election night. Many GOP candidates won school board seats, even unseating some Democratic incumbents, according to the unofficial results. 

The board also approved three requests to count write-in ballots for South Western candidates Justin Lighty and Katy Bauer and South Eastern candidate Charles Hobbs. Lighty also requested a recount of the write-in votes for the South Western race, which was approved.

Lighty and Bauer were in one race for four seats on the South Western school board, but they were each edged out by board President Vanessa Berger, who came in fourth. Lighty received 1,896 votes and Bauer received 1,851 votes, while Berger received 2,063 votes. 

York County's elections results website shows dozens of additional write-in votes that could support Lighty and Bauer, but their names were misspelled. However, according to the results available on the website, even adding all of the misspelled ballots would not put Lighty or Bauer past Berger's total votes. 

South Western is one of several school districts in York County that has faced hostility from the public over the mask mandate, and the board had to cancel at least one meeting in September because attendees refused to wear a mask inside the building. Berger took the lead in canceling that meeting, which could have contributed to the write-in campaigns that threatened to unseat her. 

More:Pandemonium at York County school board meeting as parents refuse masks: Video

In the South Eastern race for one open board seat, write-in candidate Chuck Hobbs — presumably the same person as Charles Hobbs — won the seat over Republican incumbent Brian Henz by just one vote. Hobbs received 688 votes, while Henz received 687, according to the unofficial results. 

There were at least eight misspelled ballots for Hobbs listed on the website, which could lengthen his lead. 

After the meeting, Commissioner Ron Smith said he approved the requests because election law allows the board to make that determination based on the statute.

When asked why he had approved these cumulation requests and not an earlier request in the May primary election, Smith pointed to the larger disparity.

Suzanne Mazzenga, running as a write-in candidate for mayor of Hanover, had asked for votes cast for "Suzanne Mazzaro" to be counted in her favor in May.

"It's up to us to make individual decisions based on what the intent was," Smith said.

Commissioner Doug Hoke noted he had approved Mazzenga's request in May, saying his intent is to look at everyone who requests a vote.

"If it's misspelled by one letter or two letters, I would always say the voter's intent ... I would count it if it's anywhere close to what it is," Hoke said. 

County reporter Matt Enright contributed to this report. 

Reach Erin Bamer at ebamer@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter @ErinBamer.