York County elections officials report delay in processing mail-in ballot applications

Matt Enright
York Dispatch

York County elections officials are struggling to process thousands of mail-in ballot applications in advance of a hotly contested primary election.

This week, Deputy Director Bryan Sheaffer said the Board of Elections was roughly 5,000 to 7,000 applications behind where the office ideally would be at this point in the cycle.

"Our office is currently processing as many mail-in ballot applications as we can in a day," said Sheaffer. "Please be a little bit patient with our office. We are a little bit backlogged and it's our busy period, but we will definitely get to it before we send out our first round of mail-in ballots."

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County officials say there are a variety of reasons for the delays. However, they assure the public that everything should be completed well in advance of the May 16 election.

"We anticipate being caught up in the next two weeks," Elections Director Julie Haertsch said, in an interview. "We have processed 8,450 applications now. Typically, at the time of the election we will have processed 28,000 to 32,000 applications based on what people have sent back requesting a mail-in ballot."

York County elections director Julie Haertsch discusses the final certification of votes cast on Election Day during the York County Election Board Meeting at York County Administrative Center in York City, Monday, Nov. 28, 2022.  Dawn J. Sagert photo

Haertsch said one reason for the delay involves the Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors, which contains a database of all the registered voters in Pennsylvania. That system — which the county needed in order to process some 10,000 registrations — went down several times over the past few months, she said.

"We are at the mercy of SURE often," Haertsch said.

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In addition, Haertsch said the elections office's clerical staff was limited — an issue she hopes to be rectified soon.

One staff member the county lost earlier this year was former deputy director Annie Mendoza. When asked if the county would try to bring in another deputy director, Haertsch said that was a personnel matter. The county is not currently advertising for a deputy director on its employment opportunities website, though the county is seeking a bilingual clerk for the office.

Access to Spanish-language literature and bilingual elections staff is one of the issues in a lawsuit between the county and the advocacy organizations CASA and LatinoJustice Fund.

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The primary election will be held May 16. The last day to register to vote in the primary is May 1; for more information, visit York County's Elections and Voter Registration website at https://yorkcountypa.gov/503/Elections-Voter-Registration.

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