Turnout a high point in York County's troubled election

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
Harry Overlander, left, working the poll for his daughter, West York School Board candidate for Brandy Shope, and Brenda Brown, right, working the poll in support of West Manchester Township supervisor candidate William Niehenke, look on as Lynn Kohler, center, a candidate for West York School Board, greets voters during Election Day at Shiloh Fire Co. in West Manchester Township, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. Dawn J. Sagert photo

York County's municipal elections last week were riddled with problems, but that didn't stop voters from turning out in unusually high numbers

More than 70,000 voters — nearly 25% — went to the polls to cast their ballots on Tuesday, Nov. 5. That was the highest turnout in an off-year election in at least a decade, according to the oldest data available on the county website.

"In this modern era, candidates drive turnout," said Jeff Piccola, chairman of the York County Republican Committee. "And we had virtually all of our candidate knocking on doors nearly every weekend."

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This year's ballot in York County included the sheriff's race, all spots of the county board of commissioners, five row offices and a judge on the Court of Common Pleas, making for a large candidate field to bolster turnout, Piccola added.

The commissioners races and York County Sheriff's race — which was prefaced by waves of negative press — most likely made the biggest difference, he asserted.

This year's turnout was about 4% higher than in 2015, the second best year for municipal elections in the past decade. It was nearly 10% higher than in 2011, by far the worst year during that time frame for drawing in voters.

Chad Baker, chairman of the Democratic Party of York County, echoed Piccola's sentiments about the benefits of the large swath of contentested races, including a boom in Democratic candidates. 

"It has been more than a decade that Democrats have had a full slate of candidates for a countywide election as they did this year," Baker said. "Thus, turnout tends to be better when there is someone on the ballot to vote for."

Nikki Suchanic, director of the York County Office of Elections and Voter Registration, did not immediately respond to inquiries for comment. 

The good news about voter turnout may have been a ray of sunshine after a chaotic election.

Election results were delayed because of a shortage of ballot-counting scanners — which caused long lines — as well as technical glitches, incorrect paper ballot sizes and many voters not knowing how to use the new machines, officials have said.

Glitches in the county's software prevented results from being uploaded to its website. It wasn't until a county Facebook post Thursday, Nov. 7, that the final results were made public.

During an Elections Board meeting on Friday, Nov. 8, Suchanic announced she would resign on Jan. 3 because of personal issues, dismissing the idea her departure was related to the election. 

Her resignation will mark the second key departure by a county agency head in the past month. In late October, York County 911 Center director Jacqui Brininger announced her immediate resignation.

Suchanic also announced her office would conduct a complete ballot recount  this week with high-speed scanners to ensure the vote tallies match.

York County Commissioners at 10 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 14, will meet with state legislators, poll workers and representatives from Dominion Voting Systems to formulate a plan to avoid such widespread problems going forward.

The meeting initially was set to be private, but the county reversed and opened up the meeting to the public roughly four hours after The York Dispatch reported a private meeting could violate the state's Sunshine Act.

The Sunshine Act states that "any prearranged gathering of an agency which is attended or participated in by a quorum of the members of an agency held for the purpose of deliberating agency business or taking official action" is required to be a public meeting. 

A quorum, in this case, would occur if more than one commissioner were to attend and would require the meeting to be public.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.