News

'Redo' of some York County races possible after voting problems

Written by Brandie Kessler, Teresa Boeckel & Dylan Segelbaum/The York Daily Record | Nov 7, 2017 6:13 PM


Signs for school board members and judges were displayed at the entrance of the Manchester Township building on Tuesday. (Photo: Paul Kuehnel, York Daily Record)

(York) -- Problems with election machines in York County could have allowed a single voter to vote more than once for certain candidates on Tuesday.

The issue was discovered Monday, but it was too late to reprogram the machines, York County spokesman Mark Walters said in a news release distributed at 3 p.m. Tuesday.

It affects 19 races, including the contest to fill three seats on the York County Court of Common Pleas

"The county's Elections and Voter Registration department learned about this late Monday afternoon, the day before the municipal election and hours ahead of polls opening," according to the release. By then, machines had already been sent out to 159 election districts.

The problem, a technical oversight caused by an employee of the York County Elections and Voter Registration office, impacts candidates who appear twice in a single race where more than one candidate is elected.

An example is in the York County Court of Common Pleas judge race, where a voter can choose up to three candidates from a total of four. Some candidates were cross-filed, meaning they are listed as both a Democrat and Republican. Because of the machine problem, a voter could pick the same candidate twice, giving them an extra vote.

Races such as the bid for York mayor do not involve cross-filing, so were not affected.

Walters said Tuesday afternoon that the county board of elections intentionally waited to announce the problem with the voting machines.

"The decision to hold off was made (Monday) by the board of elections and the consideration was if you release this to the masses, it will then enable more people to cheat," Walters said. The board believed "keeping this information would better protect the integrity of this election." 

It's possible that some election results would not be finalized Tuesday night or possibly within the next few days, Walters said.

Pennsylvania Department of State Acting Secretary Robert Torres "plans to request a formal post-election review and report from York County" as authorized under the state election code, a news release states.

"York County's report will enable the Department of State to advise the County in implementing additional controls to avoid such occurrences in the future," the release states. The department was made aware of the problem on Monday.

"At this point, we're not going to be able to say with certainty who some of these winners are tonight," Walters said Tuesday. He said the county is working with the state to determine its legal options.

Depending on how many extra votes were cast, the county might not be able to determine a winner from Tuesday's election.

"A redo is certainly on the table," Walters said.

Kathleen Prendergast, who was appointed to the York County Court of Common Pleas in 2016 and is running for a full 10-year term, hadn't heard about the issue with voting machines, but said she's confident that York County will sort it out.

Meanwhile, judicial candidate Clyde Vedder, a partner and civil and criminal law litigator at Morris & Vedder, said he'd heard from voters that it was possible to vote twice for a candidate. He's seen notices at polling places telling people not to do it.

"In the year 2017, this day and age with our computer technology and sophistication, it's just unfortunate that that could occur," he said.

He later referenced the infamous "hanging chads" in the 2000 presidential election.

"That's understandable. That's unfortunate. But that's also politics," Vedder said of Tuesday's voting problem.

Other races that could be affected include municipal and school board races where the voter could cast a vote for more than one person in the race and candidates were cross-filed.

People who voted straight ticket wouldn't have been able to vote more than once, Walters said.

Notices posted at all polling places reminded voters they may only vote for one cross-filed candidate in the same race, Walters said. He said those notices were posted in English and Spanish.

He said the problem was discovered late Monday afternoon when they were working to fix an issue with a machine in Glen Rock.

York County elections director Nikki Suchanic said her office was not fielding a lot of questions about the issue late Tuesday afternoon.

The office is working to identify which races would be affected by the problem.

"We're still trying to determine how we're going to release election results," Suchanic said.

The county is working with the voting machine vendor on an action plan to verify votes in the potentially impacted races, according to the news release.

Marian Schneider, president of Verified Voting, a national nonprofit that focuses on making voting technology secure, said election officials should be able to look at the record of votes cast to determine if anyone voted twice for a candidate.

If people voted twice for a cross-filed candidate, the county board of election would have to address the problem under the election code, Schneider said.

Schneider recently served as a special adviser to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf on election policy, a news release states.

Here is the list of 19 races that would be affected by the voting problem:

Eight contested races

  • Court of Common Pleas (10-year term) (Vote for three)
  • School Director (4-year) -- Central York (VF4)
  • Supervisor (6-year) -- Dover Township (VF2)
  • Council (4-year) -- Glen Rock Borough (VF3)
  • Council (4-year) -- North York Borough (VF4)
  • Council (4-year) -- Red Lion Borough (VF4)
  • School Director (4-year) -- West York Area (VF4)
  • Council (4-year) -- West York Borough (VF4)

Eleven uncontested races

  • York County Court of Common Pleas (Vote for three)
  • School Director (4-year) -- Dallastown Region 1 (Vote for two)
  • School Director (4-year) -- Dover Area (VF4)
  • School Director (4-year) -- Hanover Public (VF4)
  • School Director (4-year) -- Northeastern Region 1 (VF2)
  • School Director (4-year) -- Northern York County Region 3 (VF2)
  • Township Commissioner (4-year) - -Penn Township (VF2)
  • School Director (4-year) -- South Western (VF4)
  • School Director (4-year) -- Southern York (VF4)
  • School Director (4-year) -- Spring Grove Area (VF4)
  • Council (4-year) -- Spring Grove Borough (VF4)
  • School Director (4-year) -- York Suburban (VF4)

This story comes to us through a partnership between WITF and The York Daily Record

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