York County officials say overvotes didn't affect election results, but numbers tell different story

David Weissman
York Dispatch
Nikki Suchanic, director of the York County election department, speaks during a election board meeting at the York County Administrative Center regarding instances of single voters casting multiple votes during last week's election Monday, Nov.13, 2017. Bill Kalina photo

York County officials announced their determination that a technical oversight with voting machines didn't affect the outcome of Nov. 7 election results, but the numbers in one race indicate a possible impact.

York County's Board of Elections voted unanimously to approve the preliminary certification of the election results during its meeting Monday, Nov. 20.

County election staff discovered the 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.

On Nov. 13, about 20 volunteers — all county employees — spent about five hours counting all the instances where a single voter cast two votes for the same candidate — referred to as an "overvote."

Those numbers were tallied and then verified by an independent auditing firm, RKL, according to Nikki Suchanic, director of the county's election department.

The total number of overvotes for each of nine contested races were revealed during the board's meeting Monday, and county officials announced that they found the oversight did not impact any outcomes.

"Based on the audit and based on the certification of that audit, there is no indication that any overvote would've affected the outcome of this election," county solicitor Glenn Smith said.

West York Borough Council: However, the numbers tallied for the West York Borough Council race indicate the overvotes could have impacted that race.

Four council seats were up for election, and a total of 32 overvotes were cast for incumbents Mary Wagner and Brian Wilson — one of those admittedly cast by Wilson for himself.

Taking those votes away would still leave Wagner and Wilson comfortably in the top four, but if enough of those votes were instead cast for incumbent Shelley Metzler, she could have closed the gap with fourth-place finisher Wayne Leedy, who holds a nine-vote advantage over Metzler.

County spokesman Mark Walters said, based on those numbers, he would agree that race could have been affected by overvotes. Metzler could not immediately be reached for comment.

County residents have until Monday, Nov. 27, to challenge any of the election results. A Board of Elections meeting to issue a final certification is scheduled for noon at the county's administration building at 28 W. Market St. in York City.

Judges: In the countywide Court of Common Pleas judges election, candidates Kathleen Prendergast and Clyde Vedder received 1,473 and 834 overvotes, respectively, according to the review.

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Even subtracting those overvotes would leave them each with more than twice as many votes as fourth-place finisher Sandra Thompson, according to the election results.

Three judges spots were up for election, and third-place finisher Amber Anstine Kraft finished nearly 14,000 votes ahead of Thompson.

Vedder, who attended Monday's meeting, said he was relieved to hear the county's determination.

"I'm pleased the unfortunate machine programming error was addressed swiftly and credibly," Vedder said, referencing the county bringing in RKL to audit its results.

The RKL audit is expected to cost the county about $3,000, according to county spokesman Mark Walters.

Vedder said he's excited to become a judge early next year, and he is confident the will of the voters has been heard with the county's ruling.

The other races where overvotes were cast include:

  • Central York School District director: Michael Wagner received 185 overvotes, Veronica Gemma received 90 overvotes
  • West York School District director: George Margetas received 65 overvotes, Suzanne Sennett Smith received 63 overvotes, and Don Carl received 43 overvotes
  • Dover Township supervisor: Michael Cashman received 17 overvotes
  • Glen Rock Borough Council: Lynn Merrick received 7 overvotes, Andrew Stewart received 3 overvotes
  • North York Borough Council: Gary Branham received 33 overvotes, Vivian Amspracher received 27 overvotes
  • Red Lion Borough Council: Tony Musso received 14 overvotes, Christopher Minnich received 10 overvotes, and Cynthia Lutz Barley received 8 overvotes

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Sandra Thompson had received overvotes. The story has been corrected to state that Kathleen Prendergast received overvotes.

— Reach David Weissman at dweissman@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.