Gov. Wolf requiring newly purchased voting systems to include paper backup

David Weissman
York Dispatch
York County Elections and Voter Registration Director Nikki Suchanic talks to poll workers about the card activator device during a training session at the Red Lion Area Senior Center in Red in 2015. Dawn J. Sagert photo

A new directive from Gov. Tom Wolf's administration will affect York County when it decides to replace its aging voting machines.

The Pennsylvania Department of State announced Friday, Feb. 9, that all future voting systems purchased in the state must leave a paper trail; York County's machines currently do not.

“This directive will ensure that the next generation of the commonwealth’s voting systems conforms to enhanced standards of resiliency, auditability and security,” acting Department of State Secretary Robert Torres said in a news release. “The current voting equipment in counties works and can be audited. But new voting machines with paper ballots or voter-verifiable paper backup will improve auditability and augment security.”

Nikki Suchanic, the county's director of voting and elections, said replacing the county's machines — which have been in use since November 2006 — is an oft-discussed topic, but no timeline has been set.

She was not immediately aware of how long the electronic machines are supposed to be in service, per manufacturer recommendations.

Moving forward with replacing the machines is a discussion her office would need to have with county commissioners, she said.

Commissioner Doug Hoke said he's sure the age and reliability of the machines will be discussed during next year's budget process, particularly considering the issue the county dealt with during the 2017 municipal election.

Programming error: Hoke was referring to a programming error that allowed a single voter to cast multiple votes for a single candidate in certain races where more than one candidate was elected.

County volunteers and an independent auditing firm later tallied up the instances where a single voter cast two votes for the same candidate — referred to as an "over vote" — and found about 2,900 such incidences in nine contested races.

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County solicitor Glenn Smith wrote in a post-election report that "it was determined that no contest was negatively affected by the over vote."

A review of over-vote totals, however, indicated that the West York Borough Council race might have been affected, with incumbent councilwoman Shelley Metzler trailing fourth-place finisher Wayne Leedy by just nine votes.

The county's review found a total of 32 over votes cast for fellow incumbent council members Brian Wilson and Mary Wagner, both of whom won re-election regardless of those extra votes.

Metzler told The York Dispatch she planned to challenge the election results, but she did not file any such challenge, and the county finalized the certification of its results on Nov. 27.

Suchanic said representatives from Dominion — which acquired Sequoia Voting Systems, the manufacturer of York County's machines, in 2010 — will be coming to the county ahead of May's primary election to ensure no more programming errors occur.

— Reach David Weissman at or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.