York County restricts mail-in ballot drop box, citing staffing issues

Matt Enright
York Dispatch

York County will be significantly scaling back its mail-in ballot drop box access ahead of the May 17 primary.

Instead, the county will allow ballots to be dropped off during curbside events on three specific days, including on May 17, with a staff member monitoring.

President Commissioner Julie Wheeler told The York Dispatch that part of the problem is making sure people don't drop off multiple ballots.

"In order to ensure that individuals are only dropping off one ballot, the best way we can do that is to have a county employee and a sheriff's deputy standing by the box," she said. 

York County President Commissioner Julie Wheeler speaks during the dedication ceremony for the 68th historical marker in York County, marking the birth place of the former Pennsylvania Governor George M. Leader, at Codorus Valley Corporate Center in York Township, Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021. Dawn J. Sagert photo

According to the Department of State, mail-in voters can only drop off their own ballot with the exception of a voter with a disability designating — in writing — another voter to drop their ballot off. Violators could face prosecution and possible jail time, including a fine of up to $2,500.

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Wheeler did not rule out the possibility of returning the drop box at some point in the future. For now, she said, a staff member sworn to assist with elections will only be made available to monitor the box during specific time periods.

"We don't have the resources to have a county employee there from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every day," she said, citing staffing issues.

Voters can drop off their mail-in and absentee ballots during curbside events from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on May 7 and May 15 at the York County Administrative Center, 28 E. Market St., York. In addition, ballots may be dropped off at the same location from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on primary day itself, May 17. 

Wheeler noted that people can still come in and drop off their ballots directly at the office of York County Elections, which is headquartered in the administrative center.

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Mail-in ballots and drop boxes have been criticized by those who erroneously believe that widespread voter fraud took place in the past few elections.

Pennsylvania election officials identified a total of 26 possible cases of voter fraud in 2020, according to The Associated Press. Most of those cases involved people attempting to cast ballots for dead relatives, including a Delaware County man who pleaded guilty to illegally voting for Donald Trump on behalf of his deceased mother.

Lehigh County plans to have detectives monitor the drop boxes either through surveillance or directly, according to District Attorney Jim Martin.

In Lancaster County, county commissioners removed the drop box altogether.

Joann Kehr of York Township, left, casts an absentee ballot for her husband Philip as York County Probation employee Richanda Hyder assists at the county drop off box which was moved outside the York County Administrative Center Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. Bill Kalina photo

Wheeler denied that the criticism of mail-in voting had anything to do with the county's decision to limit drop box hours.

"At the end of the day, we need to ensure the security of those ballots and the integrity of those ballots," Wheeler said.

Chad Baker, chair of the York County Democrats, said the decision seems to be an attempt to obstruct voting.

"I find this to be a flimsy excuse given in 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, the commissioners were able to assign personnel to the box," he said.

The York County GOP did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

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Last summer, public commenters spoke at length about the need for an election audit. At the commissioners meeting on Wednesday, York City resident Thomas Paup praised the actions of Lancaster County and urged York County to do the same. 

"It's always great to set a good example," he said. "I would hope that the county commissioners would seek to do the same thing in this county."

The last day to request a mail-in ballot for the May 17 primary is May 10. Ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on May 17. For more information, go to votespa.com.

If you are voting in person, you can check your precinct and polling place at https://yorkcountypa.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=ca4a78879860454f83ffa2edcd7a2df4.

You can check your voter registration status online at https://www.pavoterservices.pa.gov/Pages/voterregistrationstatus.aspx.

— Reach Matt Enright via email at menright@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @Matthew_Enright. 

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