Candidates push voter turnout on final day

Jason Addy

Candidates around York County spent the final day of their campaigns knocking on doors, shaking hands and meeting potential voters, trying to secure last-minute votes ahead of Tuesday’s primary elections.

York mayoral candidate Michael Helfrich talks with Judy Ritter-Dickson supporter Anita Allen outside the Princess Street Center Tuesday, May 16, 2017. Helfrich planned to vote there. Bill Kalina photo

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. for Republican and Democratic voters to select candidates for a number of local, county and statewide positions, including York City mayor, York County district attorney and three spots on the York County Court of Common Pleas.

York City Mayor Kim Bracey, left, and Judy Ritter-Dickson remove their campaign signs from outside Hannah Penn K-8 after an official informed pollers that they weren't allowed on school grounds Tuesday, May 16, 2017. Bracey is running for reelection and Ritter-Dickson for city council. Bill Kalina photo

Voters also will have the opportunity to select township supervisors, controllers, councils and school boards as well as nominating candidates for three statewide appellate courts.

Liquor referendums will be on the ballot for all voters in Shrewsbury and East Hopewell townships.

Know before you go: 2017 York County primary

Tepid turnout? Nikki Suchanic, director of the York County Voting and Elections Office, said she anticipates somewhere between 20 percent and 25 percent of registered voters in the county will turn up to the polls.

Turnout in some municipalities might be higher depending on the “political temperature” of some races, Suchanic said, but she doesn’t expect turnouts to reach 50 percent in any municipality.

More than a quarter-million people in York County are registered to vote in Tuesday’s primary, with 148,190 people registered as Republicans and 102,333 registered as Democrats, according to state voter statistics.

Odd-year elections, such as Tuesday’s primary and the Nov. 7 general election, feature municipal, countywide and some statewide elections and do not include the top-of-ticket presidential and congressional races that often draw people to the polls.

Plus, primary elections tend to have lower turnouts than general elections.

GOP cushions its voter registration edge in York County

According to official election statistics, nearly 210,000 people from York County — 71 percent of registered voters — cast ballots in November’s presidential election, while only 41,604 people, or 17 percent of registered voters, turned up to vote in the May 2013 municipal primaries, when many of the same offices that will be decided in Tuesday were up for election.

Last-minute campaigning: Jonelle Harter Eshbach, a candidate for York County district attorney, said she was out knocking on doors and “acquiring votes” Monday afternoon in her race against Dave Sunday.

Some people don’t want to be bothered at their homes to speak about politics and the election but more are vocal about their interest in the government and criminal justice system, Eshbach said.

Calling herself a “supervoter” — someone who votes in nearly every election — Eshbach said she was raised to understand the importance of voting and has raised her children to understand the importance of voting.

“To me, there’s nothing more important you can do — other than serving on a jury — to help the government function,” Eshbach said.

Sunday, a chief deputy prosecutor in the district attorney’s office, said he used Monday to make final Election Day preparations and to spend some time with his supporters.

Local government officials often have more of a daily impact on York County residents' lives than decisions made at the national level, Sunday said, encouraging registered voters to "get educated" about the candidates and turn up at the polls Tuesday.

Voting "is the only way citizens can really have a voice" in their local government, and it is "absolutely vital that everyone gets out and votes," Sunday said.

Get out the vote: York City Council president Michael Helfrich spent much of Monday coordinating with his poll workers and sending out last-minute campaign messages before hitting the streets to knock on doors and answer any final questions from voters.

Helfrich is running to unseat York City Mayor Kim Bracey on Tuesday in the Democratic primary. No Republicans are on the primary ballot.

He said he believes Tuesday’s primary elections are more important for voters in the city than are presidential and congressional elections.

“The folks that live here, we make the local law. We determine how the government interacts with you every single day,” Helfrich said. “In my mind, this is the most important election we will have for the next four years.”

He isn’t making any predictions on voter turnout, but he said he is hoping for a good turnout whether he wins or loses the primary.

“That shows that we have at least engaged the public” in deciding the city’s leadership, Helfrich said.

Bracey spent the final evening before Tuesday’s primary at a “Get out the Vote” rally hosted by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf.

Before the event in the park next to Voni Grimes Gym on East College Avenue, Wolf told The York Dispatch that voting is a "fundamental responsibility of citizenship" and urged all registered voters to get to the polls.

"The society we want, we can only get it if we all go out and vote and express our opinion," Wolf said.

Bracey, who is seeking her third term as York City mayor, emphasized the importance of the races on Tuesday's ballots and said she hopes the nice weather will allow more people to vote.

Local elections are important because people are choosing candidates who will be responsible for educating their children, determining tax rates and ensuring public safety, she said.

"I believe in the democratic process and system, and I know every vote counts and every vote matters," Bracey said. "It's very important that people stay involved, stay connected to their government and are aware of what's happening."

For many candidates, campaign season will be over by the end of Tuesday. But for county elections office workers, it will be back to work at 8 a.m. Wednesday to sort through the unused election supplies, Suchanic said.