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EDITORIAL: Keep the voting momentum going

York Dispatch Editorial Board

York County voters were determined to make their voices heard for this presidential election.

So determined that, despite the pandemic, the mail-in ballot controversy and long lines in some polling places, the county had record voter turnout this year.

Well done!

On Wednesday, the York County Board of Elections approved a certification of the Nov. 3 election results that showed a record 77% of the county's registered voters cast a ballot.

"It's very exciting to see the number of voters that turned out in York County to vote in this election," York County President Commissioner Julie Wheeler said.

Of the 311,059 registered voters in the county, 239,659 cast a ballot in the general election, said Steve Ulrich, director of Elections and Voter Registration. He said it was the greatest recorded turnout in the county's history.

Those numbers included more than 155,000 votes cast in person on Election Day and almost 75,000 votes cast by mail-in ballots, state records show. More than 5,000 provisional ballots were cast on Nov. 3 in York County,

The presidential election went much as expected in heavily Republican York County, with President Donald Trump picking up 146,728 votes to now President-elect Joe Biden's 88,100. Trump picked up 18,200 votes over his local total in 2016, while Biden came out 19,576 ahead of Hillary Clinton's 2016 total here.

The county took a hard look at what worked in June's primary election to make improvements for November, Wheeler said, including tripling the number of election workers to precanvass mail-in ballots on Election Day and hiring an outside printing house to print, collate and send out mail-in ballots.

While it's hard to understand why even 23% of the registered voters in York County sat out this election (Really? This election, of all elections, to be registered and not vote?), York County needs to look at the tallies from Nov. 3 and take them as a challenge for next time.

And next time isn't the next presidential election, in 2024. Next time is next year, when we'll be electing the people who make a lot of the decisions that affect everyday life for York County residents, including setting local taxes and doling out contracts for roadwork and other local expenses.

While municipal elections don't have the glamour that the national races have, they are at least as important from the standpoint of a York County voter.

After all, the township supervisors and school board directors will set the millage rage for property taxes. The borough council will decide how much money to give to the volunteer fire department. And who are you going to call when the neighbors let the grass grow too tall or use your parking spot, city hall or the White House?

While we're at it, let's look at some more reforms that could make voting even easier for Pennsylvanians. How about being able to register to vote the day of the election, or making mail-in voting less complicated, or having more than one drop-off box for ballots in each county? 

Let's make a goal for 2021: Get out the vote, again. Keep the voting momentum going through the smaller races, and build up the ranks of voters so that more York County residents can make their voices heard.

Let's view that 77% turnout as the new normal, not a stretch goal.

Steve Ulrich, director of Elections, right, waits as County Commissioner Ron Smith signs the Certification of Computation of Election Results after the York County Board of Elections voted to certify the computation of ballots, Wednesday, November 18, 2020.
John A. Pavoncello photo