Earlier referendum attempted to ban electronic voting machines in Jacobus

Matt Enright
York Dispatch

People have been attempting to force a public decision on removing electronic voting machines in York County for longer than had been previously reported.

A March petition would have put a referendum on the use of electronic voting machines in Jacobus on the general election ballot.

Ultimately, that petition, which received the necessary number of signatures, was rejected by the York County Board of Elections.

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A letter written by York County solicitor Michelle Pokrifka cites case law in an explanation of why the board rejected the proposal.

"The York County Board of Elections would also reject any future local referendum regarding the discontinuance of electronic voting systems or machines for the same reason unless there were changes in the federal and state laws that revived the allowance of local referendums on these topics," her letter reads.

Local referendums require signatures from local electors totaling 10% of the vote total from the most recent November general election.

The letter cites a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision, Kuznik v. Westmoreland County Bd. of Commissioners in 2006, as legal justification for the rejection. 

"The Supreme Court determined that local referendums on the continued use of an electronic voting system are no longer a valid option in municipalities because they were overruled by the higher authority of the requirements of the federal HAVA and the state constitutional law," Pokrikfa says in the letter.

Another petition attempting a referendum that would have placed electronic voting machines on the county's general election ballot failed earlier this month.

President Commissioner Julie Wheeler and Commissioner Ron Smith did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Commissioner Doug Hoke said there had been a lot of requests about local referendums regarding elections.

"I've heard a lot from other commissioners, and there are the same thing in other areas that people are requesting ballots to get on," Hoke said Friday.

Elections Director Julie Haertsch did not respond to a request for comment. An email indicated she would be out of the office until Sept. 19.

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Attempts to ban electronic voting machines have become prevalent among activists who act at the behest of former President Donald Trump and his allies who continue to claim without proof that the 2020 election was stolen.

Reporting from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette indicates that there have been attempts in at least 16 counties to get similar referendums on county ballots, including in Butler and Washington counties.

However, no group succeeded in getting the required 10% signature total.

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