Smooth voting, strong turnout in York County

Margarita Cambest, and Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch
  • York County elections director Nikki Suchanic says turnout is steady.
  • Lines formed before the polls opened and are expected to pick up again after 5 p.m.

Some voters in East Manchester Township were expecting to wait two hours after polls officially closed at 8 p.m. in Pennsylvania before they could cast their ballots.

As of 8:20 p.m., those in the back of the line said they were told they would have to wait at least until 10 vote, with the line wrapped around the Starview United Church of Christ.

According to York County elections director Nikki Suchanic, no one already in line when the polls close is turned away.

"As long as they're in line at 8, they're allowed to vote," she said.

One man in the back of the line, John Blankenship Jr., said he is prepared to wait however long was required to vote for Donald Trump because he wanted to protect his Second Amendment rights.

Blankenship said he's voted at this precinct before but never had to wait more than 20 minutes.

Polls were particularly crowded in some areas of York County, but Suchanic said, overall, voting went smoothly.

“It’s definitely a busy day, but probably just as busy as 2012,” she said. After the polls closed at 8 p.m., she said she had spoken to several elections judges who reported voter turnout upward of 80 percent.

By midnight, with 63 percent of precincts reporting, the turnout was at 60.93 percent.

Voter turnout in reliably Republican northern York County precincts was overwhelming Tuesday, including long after morning rush hour ended.

The first obstacle for voters in Fairview, Newberry and East Manchester townships was securing what could pass for a parking spot, which wasn’t as easy as it sounds.

At the Newberry Township Fire Co. building on York Haven Road, vehicles rolled slowly through the large lot, with drivers scanning the rows and rows of parked vehicles in hopes one would pull out and leave. Many people gave up and parked along York Haven Road.

It was the same story at Starview United Church of Christ on Sherman Street Extended in East Manchester Township, where drivers were directed to park in grassy areas and across the street. Fire police kept the scene from becoming chaotic.

Northern York County Regional Police said fire police were needed at the Dover Township Community Building on Davidsburg Road to help keep traffic moving in the parking lot and on the road.

Lines were unusually long at all three precincts, as well as at the Fishing Creek Community Building on Locust Road in Fairview Township.

Some voters reported waiting nearly two hours to cast their ballots.

Bonner Smith, 73, and Paul Clouser, 47, were volunteering at Starview UCC.

Fire police guide traffic as long lines continue at the Dover Township Fire Department polling site, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. John A. Pavoncello photo

Both men were pleased with the large voter turnout.

“It is our civic duty to vote,” said Clouser, who’s an East Manchester Township committeeman and has been involved in politics since he was 19 years old. “There’s so much on the line.”

Smith — who reported that the voting line was long even at 7 a.m. — said he doesn’t take a salary for being a poll volunteer.

“My father believed you donated X-amount of time to your community,” he said.

Smith said he remembers the line to vote being even longer for 2004’s Bush-Kerry presidential race, and several voters in Newberry and Fairview townships also said lines get much longer for presidential elections.

Helen Jackson, right, 91, is accompanied by her granddaughter Karla Coffman, both of Spring Garden Township, as she arrives at the Police Building in Ward 3 to vote on Election Day in Spring Garden Township, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. Dawn J. Sagert photo

At The Brunswick of Longstown in Springettsbury Township, the line to get in to vote extended as far as Carol Road until noon before dying down to a 20-minute wait after lunchtime.

Chuck Little said it took him 47 minutes to vote from the time he stood in line until he got back to his car. Although he would not say he voted for Donald Trump, he confirmed he voted Republican across the ticket.

“Health insurance as it is is scary with what you pay for,” he said.

Another Springettsbury voter, Marjorie Pokopec-Gerhart, said she came to the polling place earlier in the day but left when she saw long lines. She figured she would come back after lunch to a shorter wait, but she still stood in line for about 25 minutes to cast her vote for Trump.

People wait in line to vote outside of Starview United Church Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, in East Manchester Township. Amanda J. Cain photo

In West York, judge of elections Leslie Kiesel said she saw what might be a record-breaking number of voters in line at the precinct before the doors opened at 7 a.m. The line stretched into the parking lot of the Reliance Fire Co. Seventy-five voters cast their ballots in the first half-hour.

By 2:30 p.m., Kiesel estimated about 40 percent turnout at the precinct. Voters started to come in a slow but steady trickle that she expected to pick up again after the 9-to-5 work shift let out.

Leslie Kiesel, judge of elections, said turnout was steady in West York. She expects lines to pick up after 5 p.m.

“I’m excited,” Kiesel said. “The turnout is fabulous today and it’s just been good.”

Turnout appeared to be particularly high at the Dover Township Community Center on Davidsburg Road, where the line of voters stretched out the door in the afternoon and fire police were dispatched to direct traffic.

Follow along on Twitter at #YorkVotes.