EDITORIAL: Clock ticks on election fixes

York Dispatch Editorial Board

York County officials seem to be moving quickly to address the issues that plagued voters during last month’s election — which is good, considering another one is right around the corner.

You’ll recall the county rolled out new voting machines for the Nov. 5 municipal election ... and it did not go well.

Each polling place had just one regular ballot-counting scanner and one machine to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. But one scanner per polling place wasn't enough in some precincts, leaving voters waiting in long lines.

There were also issues with incorrect paper sizes, and some voters didn't know how to use the machines, officials have said.

Last week the Board of Commissioners approved a $14,550 contract with a Dauphin County consultant to study dividing some of York County’s busiest voting districts to alleviate some of the pressure.

Temporary county worker Doris Feeser sorts and stores items returned from polling sites at the Elections and Voters Office at the York County Administration Building Thursday, November 7, 2019. The final vote tally was released earlier that morning after glitches with the new voting procedure on Tuesday delayed the count. Bill Kalina photo

More:York County to divide voting districts, add election polling places

More:'You should be pretty worried': Fixing York County's election system before 2020 votes

Exactly how the polling places in Carroll, East Manchester, Fairview, Springfield, West Manheim and Dover townships will be split will depend on consultant BonData’s recommendations.

A map incorporating the new districts will be ready for review by Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar by Dec. 31, said Tyler Chronister, deputy controller for York County.

In addition, the county officials also OK’d a contract with York College to survey York County's judges of elections to get a better idea of how things went on Nov. 5 and how they could be improved.

The Republican Party of Pennsylvania also is paying close attention to voting problems in York and other counties. The same day the county commissioners acted, the party announced it’s forming a review committee to address the issues reported during November's election.

The committee intends to publish its findings and submit a report to the Department of State and General Assembly no later than Feb. 29.

Let’s hope these multiple spotlights on a messy election lead to fast solutions.

Even though last month’s turnout — nearly 25% — was high for a municipal election, the upcoming presidential contests will almost certainly draw two, perhaps three times as many voters.

They deserve a smooth process, one that leaves them confident their votes will be counted and their voices will be heard.

That didn't happen last month.

In fact, if Pennsylvania lawmakers really want to improve the way we vote, they'll expand on the package of election reform bills Gov. Tom Wolf signed in October.

That legislation allowed for no-excuse mail-in ballots, expands the time to send in those ballots, cuts the deadline for registering from 30 days before an election to 15 days, and authorized $90 million to help counties pay for new voting machines.

According to Wolf, the changes represent "the most significant improvement to Pennsylvania’s elections in more than 80 years."

Perhaps. But lawmakers can do more.

What about same-day registration or automatic voter registration when people do business with state agencies? 

Or how about opening Pennsylvania's primaries to all voters, regardless of party affiliation?

Even better, they could finally act on establishing a citizens redistricting commission that would end partisan gerrymandering — the underhanded process that essentially lets incumbents choose their voters, rather than voters electing their representatives.

These are commonsense changes that return power to the people — and Pennsylvania residents should demand them.