'You should be pretty worried': Fixing York County's election system before 2020 votes
The maker of York County's new voting machines pledged to have support on hand for all of next year's elections after a tumultuous rollout of the system earlier this month that delayed election results for days.
A representative for Dominion Voting Systems made the announcement Thursday, Nov. 14, during a debriefing that included the county commissioners, nearly all of the county's state lawmakers, poll workers and election officials.
Kay Stimson, the company's vice president of government affairs, said Dominion also would work with county officials to reevaluate the number of machines needed in each of the 159 precincts.
Based of the problems during the Nov. 5 municipal election, Lawmakers were particularly concerned about the 2020 voting — which includes a special election in January, the primary in April and the presidential contest in November.
"If you voted in York, you should be pretty worried," state Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, said after the meeting.
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The municipal election was marred by a shortage of ballot-counting scanners and technical glitches, incorrect paper ballot sizes and many voters not knowing how to use the new machines, all of which led to long lines at some polling sites.
The final results were not tallied until two days after the election, and glitches prevented results from being posted online.
Lawmakers at Thursday's meeting focused on several issues, including privacy, precinct sizes and concerns with the efficiency of the new machines.
But the most prominent issue proved to be the number of scanners provided to precincts and how the county can ensure polling places have enough resources to operate smoothly during next year's presidential election.
State Rep. Kate Klunk, R-Hanover, specifically cited issues stemming from the sheer volume of voters in West Manheim Township's sole precinct. Roughly 4,000 people are registered in the precinct.
"With this particular new system, I'm really concerned about next year," she said. "We need to make sure the citizens there have access to voting, and that it's not going to take them an hour, an hour and a half, or two hours to vote next year."
Each of the county's 159 precincts had one machine, regardless of size. Some reports surfaced of voters throwing out ballots, refusing to wait in lines that surpassed one hour.
Stimson, the Dominion Voting Systems representative, said the decision to have just one machine per precinct was based on a formula created with county input.
"We should go back and look at that equipment formula," she said. "I want you to understand that the science of long wait times are complex."
Yet many precincts are not large enough to hold additional equipment, lawmakers argued, which led to recommendations to allow voting in schools or even at the York Fairgrounds.
The issue dates back to last year, when Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf ordered that any county planning to replace its voting machines had to buy devices that leave a paper trail by 2020.
The Department of State later said it will decertify all voting machines that don't meet the criteria, meaning even some counties that weren't planning to buy new machines had to do so.
However, in the wake of the troubled municipal elections last week, some are resisting.
Dauphin County, for example, has signaled it may disobey Wolf's order, partly because of problems reported in other counties that rolled out new machines this month, The Associated Press reported Wednesday, Nov. 13.
Dauphin County is one of 22 in the state that have not yet purchased new machines.
In York County, which spent $1.4 million on its new machines, the commissioners have said the only thing they can do now is try to improve the voting process.
State Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York Township, said after the meeting she intended to take input from Thursday's talks to the Department of State as well.
"When this all happened, we knew it was a problem early on," Phillips-Hill said. "When digging in, there was some communication issues in what happened at the county and what happened at the state. I think the county could have done a better job, and I think the state can provide better instruction to counties."
Commissioners, lawmakers and Dominion all said the evaluation of last week's elections are still in the early stages and that continued discussions and possible improvements will continue to develop.
— Logan Hullinger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.