Everything York County needs to know about the 2020 primary elections

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
A New Voting Systems Expo hosted by the Pennsylvania Department of State took place at Dickinson College Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. Pennsylvania counties are preparing to replace voting machines after Gov. Tom Wolf in April mandated that voting machines used in the state have a verifiable paper trail. Bill Kalina photo

York County voters will see a variety of changes during the 2020 primary elections, which include a presidential race and a hotly contested local U.S. House race.

The York Dispatch has all the information voters need.

In the April 28 presidential primary election, voters could have a wide variety of Democrats to choose from, all of whom have made it a priority to oust President Donald Trump. 

Closer to home, Democrats in northern York County will make a choice in the 10th Congressional District primary race, where state Auditor General Eugene DePasqule will face off against Hershey-based author and attorney Tom Brier. Both are competing to challenge Rep. Scott Perry, R-Carroll Township, in November. 

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster, is also up for reelection but does not yet have a primary challenger.

There are some important changes voters should be aware of heading into the primary.

New year, new registration deadlines

Voters now have until 15 days before the primary election to register to vote, a change  the state hopes will boost turnout. Voters can register at votespa.com or contact the York County elections office in person or by mail at 28 E. Market St.

This year, the registration deadlines are:

  • Monday, April 13, for the primary election.
  • Monday, Oct. 19, for the general election.

For the first time, voters have two options if they'd like to mail in ballots

Voters previously only had the option to mail in absentee ballots if they planned to be out of their municipality during an election or suffered from a disability or sickness. 

Now, any individual who does not meet the requirements for an absentee ballot can use a mail-in ballot, with no justification necessary.

Counties have until three days after the elections to count the ballots. The change could delay election results, depending on how quickly counties can get things done.

Voters can apply for an absentee ballot on the state website or mail in an application to the county elections office. A form to mail in can be found here.

For mail-in ballots, voters can also apply for a ballot on the state website. They can also use the form on the county website if they wish to mail it in.

The county elections office must receive applications for absentee and mail-in ballots by 5 p.m. on: 

  • Tuesday, April 21, for the primary election.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 27 for the general election.

Want to vote straight ticket? Not anymore

Along with other election reforms implemented in a bill signed by Gov. Tom Wolf in October, voters will no longer be able to vote straight ticket. That means voters will have to individually check the box of any candidate they wish to vote for.

Yes, York County is still using the new voting machines

York County is sticking with its new voting machines, which are mandated to have a verifiable paper trail.

In last year's municipal election, a lack of ballot scanners, incorrect ballot sizes and confusion among voters caused long lines at the polls. A glitch in the county system also delayed election results for days.

This time around, the county has 65 new scanners and four new units that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to officials.

Expect more precincts

York County is mulling adding up to two new precincts in an effort to address long lines at some voting locations ahead of the primary election, officials have said. For years, the county has operated with 159 precincts.

Need to know more? Take a look at our list of answers to some frequently asked questions:

1. Do I need to bring any form of identification?

Some form of identification is required to vote in many states, but Pennsylvania is not one of them. However, those voting for the first time in their election district must show ID, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State. Acceptable photo IDs include a state-issued driver's license, U.S. passport, military ID, student ID or any ID issued by a federal or state agency. Acceptable nonphoto IDs include a voter registration card, firearm permit, utility bill, bank statement or government check. If using a nonphoto ID, it must contain your address.

2. Can I wear clothing/accessories supporting candidates or parties?

Voters are allowed to wear things such as T-shirts, hats and pins that show support for candidates or parties, which is not the case in some other states.

3. What should I do if I feel I'm being intimidated at the polls?

It is illegal for any person or corporation to influence a voter through intimidation or coercion, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State. Anyone who feels intimidated at the polls is encouraged to contact the county board of elections at 717-771-9604 or to file a complaint through the department's website.

The only people allowed inside polling places are election officials, clerks, machine inspectors, certified poll watchers, residents in the process of voting, people legally giving assistance to voters and police officers. Those who do not fit into these categories must remain at least 10 feet away from the entrance.

4. Can someone challenge my right to vote?

Certain people can challenge a person's right to vote for certain reasons, according to the Department of State. A poll worker, certified poll watcher or another registered voter may challenge a voter on the grounds that they do not live in the precinct or are not who they say they are. A voter who is challenged may still vote, however, by signing a challenge affidavit and producing a witness to vouch for him or her. If your name is not included in the poll book and you believe this is a mistake, you can vote via a provisional ballot, which is a paper ballot that will be counted if it is determined that you were correct. 

5. What if I need assistance because of a disability or have difficulty understanding English?

Assistance is allowed in Pennsylvania for voters who can't read or write, have difficulty understanding English or who are blind or disabled, according to the department. Assistance may be requested of a friend, relative, neighbor or another voter, and you don't need to be designated as "assistance permitted" in your district's poll book to receive assistance. However, if you're not listed as "assistance permitted" in the book, you must sign an assistance declaration.

6. What if I'm having trouble with casting my ballot or other aspects of the voting process?

For some issues, simply speaking with the poll worker at your polling location would suffice. You also can call the York County Voting and Elections Office at 717-771-9604.

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

Editor's note: This story has been changed to reflect that applications for absentee and mail-in ballots must be received by April 21 for the primary election and Oct. 27 for the general election.