York County discusses adding more paper ballot voting machines for 2020

York County is considering adding more paper ballot voting machines in 2020 to decrease wait times and long lines for voters.

However, how many more machines the county will need and how the county will find the funds to pay for the machines is still not known.

The idea was discussed during a public meeting with the commissioners on Thursday. A representative from Dominion, the company that provides the machines, was also in attendance.

People at the meeting voiced disapproval over long wait times and privacy issues. Many complained that some voters even left because it was taking too long. Much of the discussion also centered on the subject of an algorithm, which predicted one machine in each precinct would be enough.

"One system per precinct is actually something that came out of a statewide discussion with the counties," said Kay Stimson, Vice President of Government Affairs with Dominion Voting.

A county spokesperson said the machines cost $4900 and York County has 180 of the machines.

But when FOX43 asked commissioners if the county has more money to put towards buying new machines, President Commissioner Susan Byrnes said, "No. But, we'll have to find the money."

But people at the meeting also noted, adding more machines, means more space is needed in polling places. And, multiple people expressed they felt privacy is already a concern.

One possible solution discussed by the county was moving polling places to schools because those buildings provide space and parking. The county said, a task force is being organized to meet with superintendents. Another option that was discussed was to have a polling location at the York Fairgrounds.

Dominion did issue five recommendations to the county before the 2020 elections. And, Stinson added, "we are committed to making sure people have a good election experience moving ahead."

Dominion issued the following release:

On Friday, November 8, York County requested a briefing on Dominion Voting Systems ("Dominion") product performance issues in the November 5th 2019 General Election, with preliminary findings and solutions provided by Thursday, November 14th. To prepare for this summary, Dominion conducted interviews with employees providing service, reviewed county service records and communications, and consulted with senior company and county personnel.

ELECTION DAY ISSUES

York County was one of six Pennsylvania counties using a new Dominion voting system for the first time in November 2019. The new system produces a paper trail and is designed to be more secure and resilient, but it can slow down the voting process too -- particularly as voters must become accustomed to marking their choices on paper and then scanning their ballot. The following issues were reported to Dominion for review and response.

Equipment Volume: Voters across the county's 159 polling places reported long waits on Election Day. Elections & Voter Registration Director Nikki Surchanic issued a statement on November 6th citing equipment volume and logistical concerns as factors:

"One machine per polling place was simply not enough to move smoothly. The county also misjudged the time it would take to scan two ballot sheets per person."

Equipment needs were based on guidance from other Pennsylvania counties with paper-based systems. However, equipment levels can be modified by York County. In addition to the learning curve of a new system (with a new voting mode based on time to vote with ballot marking and scanning), other wait time factors on November 5th likely included:

- Higher-than-average voter turnout as reported by the county
- A large candidate field that included ballot races for sheriff, all county commissioner seats, five row officers (county departments) and a judge on the Court of Common Pleas
- The additional challenge of switching to paper ballots while conducting a judicial retention race which required a separate ballot by law. Voters had to fill out and scan two ballot sheets per person, which made the process longer and more challenging.

Ballot Scanning: Technicians were able to address isolated issues in several precincts on Election Day, including minor paper jams that are typical in new system implementations. Several precincts also received ballots that could not be easily read by the polling place scanners due to a printing error (the printer has been notified) and ha to be hand tabulated by the Elections Department. All Dominion support staff followed proper procedures in assisting the county.

Ballot Programming: The county received results from the polls on Election Night in timely fashion. However, the online posting of results were delayed until November 6th due to a ballot programming issue. The issue occurred when several ballot changes were needed to finalize the database for printing. Results card data from York Township and Southern York COunty School District ha to be meshed with other results for reporting, which required additional time to complete. Dominion has worked with the county to conduct a full re-scan of all 140,000 ballot pages without any issues.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Dominion regrets any hardships that York County experienced. Based on our preliminary review, all issues can be mitigated and addressed through enhanced planning, communications and support.

- York County can expect Dominion to provide sufficient support and service, including a support team for troubleshooting purposes during the January 2020 Special Election, the April 202 Presidential Preference Primary and the November 2020 General Election.
- Dominion will provide county staff with the training and resources needed to work with the new system in order to help avoid issues like those experienced on November 5th
- Dominion will work with the County to review existing voting machine inventory and distribution levels in order to help address any equipment shortages for the 2020 cycles
- Dominion will work with the County to review and identify any quality control processes that can be improved for third-party ballot printing and Election Day ballot handling in order to reduce paper jams and scanning issues. Some anticipated issues with ballot bleed-through from using markers on two-sided ballots can also be reviewed to ensure processing of ballots
- Dominion will work with the County to review the existing agreement and procedures for elections programming to identify any areas for clarification or enhancement.

We are fully committed to our longstanding partnership with York County and we continue to offer remedies when equipment or support services do not meet expectations according to agreement. We appreciate the opportunity to serve the County and its voters.

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