West York councilwoman to challenge results of election marred by oversight

David Weissman
York Dispatch
Shelley Metzler, a four-term West York councilwoman, is planning to challenge the 2017 election results after she lost by nine votes with the county finding 32 "overvotes" were cast in her race for other candidates. (Photo courtesy of Metzler)

Four-term West York councilwoman Shelley Metzler isn't giving up on a fifth term without a fight.

Metzler's race, by the numbers, was the only one potentially impacted by a technical oversight that allowed a single voter to cast multiple votes for a single candidate in races where more than one candidate was elected.

Four borough council seats were up for election, and fellow incumbents Brian Wilson and Mary Wagner appeared on both the Republican and Democratic tickets as a result of primary election results.

County volunteers and an independent auditing firm tallied up the instances where a single voter cast two votes for the same candidate — referred to as an "overvote" — and determined that Wilson and Wagner received a total of 32 overvotes.

The county's Board of Elections voted unanimously to approve the preliminary certification of the election results during its meeting Monday, Nov. 20, with solicitor Glenn Smith saying "there is no indication that any overvote would've affected the outcome of this election."

However, Metzler only lost to fourth-place finisher Wayne Leedy by nine votes, indicating the 32 overvotes could have impacted that race.

County spokesman Mark Walters said that, based on those numbers, he would agree that the race could have been affected by overvotes. He pointed out that anyone could challenge the election results in court before noon Monday, Nov. 27, when the board is scheduled to issue a final certification.

Metzler told The York Dispatch on Tuesday, Nov. 21, that she will be challenging the results, and she's just waiting on further instruction from her attorney before filing her civil appeal.

"I want to retain my seat," Metzler said. "If I don't do anything, that means I don't care, and I do."

Metzler's window to file is limited because county offices are closed Thursday, Nov. 23, and Friday, Nov. 24, for the Thanksgiving holiday, according to Walters.

Alleged voter fraud: In addition to possibly getting the courts to order a revote in her election, Metzler said she believes Wilson should be disqualified from holding public office for allegedly committing voter fraud.

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

More:York County election recount begins as commissioners face scrutiny

During the board's initial post-election meeting Nov. 13, Wilson publicly announced that he had voted for himself twice. He was criticizing the county commissioners for not acknowledging the technical oversight until the afternoon of Election Day.

Wilson, Wagner and fellow incumbent Alan Vandersloot all received enough votes to retain their seats regardless of overvote totals.

"It's ridiculous," Metzler said of Wilson admitting to voting for himself twice. "He should never be able to run again."

Wilson could not immediately be reached for comment.

Next steps: If the election results in a race are challenged, all races would be finalized Monday except the one being challenged, Walters said Tuesday.

Nikki Suchanic, director of the county's elections department, did not immediately return a voicemail.

The last time an election result was challenged in York County was in 2011, when incumbent York City Councilwoman Toni Smith challenged the election of Michael Helfrich, who had defeated her with a write-in campaign by six votes.

More:Michael Helfrich: From 'creek freak' to York City mayor-elect

The Board of Elections certified every race on time except York City Council that year, according to Walters, who pointed out that Metzler actually served on the board that year.

Helfrich went on to survive court challenges from Smith and, later, Mayor Kim Bracey. Helfrich recently defeated Bracey to become York City's mayor-elect.

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