York County election recount begins as commissioners face scrutiny
A recount that could help determine the winners of eight York County elections began Monday, Nov. 13, after an election board meeting where numerous residents scrutinized the county's Election Day decisions.
County election staff discovered a technical oversight the afternoon before Election Day that allowed a single voter to cast multiple votes for a single candidate in races where more than one candidate was elected.
The oversight, which was the result of a programming error by county staff, potentially impacted eight contested races, including the York County Court of Common Pleas judges race.
About 20 volunteers, all county employees, began counting votes in those races Monday morning in the basement of the county's administrative building, looking for instances where a single voter cast two votes for the same candidate. Those instances will be referred to as an "overvote" for that candidate, according to Nikki Suchanic, director of the county's election department.
The number of overvotes will be discussed during the Board of Election's preliminary certification meeting, scheduled for noon on Monday, Nov. 20, Suchanic said.
Marian Schneider, president of Verified Voting, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization advocating for accuracy and transparency in elections, said the machine error should have been caught earlier with proper logic and accuracy testing.
County spokesman Mark Walters said there was testing, but it wasn't caught. Suchanic declined to comment.
Unpopular decision: When the board opened the meeting up for questions, numerous residents expressed dissatisfaction with the county's decision to wait until the afternoon of Election Day, Nov. 7, before publicly acknowledging it knew about the voting machine issue.
A news release about the issue was sent to media just after 3 p.m. on Election Day, and Walters said the timing of the release stemmed from internal discussions about not wanting to allow more opportunities for fraudulent votes.
Walters said notices were posted at all polling stations, reminding voters they may only vote once for crossfiled candidates in the same race.
West York Councilman Brian Wilson, whose reelection effort is one of the potentially impacted races, said he voted for himself twice the morning of the election, and he never saw any such notice. His wife, who serves as judge of elections in the borough, told him the notice didn't arrive in her polling station until after 9 a.m.
Wilson unofficially received enough votes to be reelected.
Salome Johnson, of Hallam, also said she saw no notice when she voted about 9:30 a.m.
Chad Baker, chairman of the York County Democratic Party, said that the fact this information was not released to the media or candidates as soon as the county knew about the issue gives the impression that there was an attempt at a cover-up.
"I'm appalled by the entire process," he said.
Baker said the recount process will not be able to accurately take a voter's intent into consideration because if someone voted twice for one person, not knowing it wasn't allowed, that is potentially taking a vote away from another candidate, which can't be determined.
For example, in the Court of Common Pleas judges race, where Kathleen Prendergast and Clyde Vedder were listed on the Republican and Democratic tickets, if someone voted twice for Prendergast and once for Vedder, the recount won't be able to account for whether that voter would've cast their third vote for either Sandra Thompson, only listed on the Democratic side, or Amber Anstine Kraft, only listed on the Republican side.
Thompson unofficially finished nearly 14,000 votes behind Kraft, the third-place finisher.
Tempers flared after President Commissioner Susan Byrnes said they chose to put information in the hands of the county's voters rather than the media, referring to the notices placed at polling stations.
Wilson said Byrnes's statement was a "slap in the face" to everyone who voted in this election.
"Shame on you," he said.
Byrnes said she and the rest of the board would be using this mistake to review the entire pre-election process.
Wilson said someone, or multiple people, need to be held accountable for this mistake.
"In any other job, someone would be reprimanded or fired," he said.
Walters said that, to the best of his knowledge, no employees have been disciplined in any manner in relation to the voting machine issue.
— Reach David Weissman at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.