AP: McCormick Sues, Mail In Ballots Missing Date Scrutinized

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — AP is reporting… The campaign of David McCormick, who is in a neck-and-neck Republican primary contest for the U.S. Senate against celebrity heart surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz, sued in a Pennsylvania court Monday to try to ensure counties obey a brand-new federal appeals court decision that could help him make up ground.  McCormick’s lawsuit, filed after hours, asks the state’s Commonwealth Court to require counties to promptly count mail-in ballots that lack a required handwritten date on the return envelope.

It is the first — but likely not the last — lawsuit in the contest between Oz and McCormick, a former hedge fund CEO.  McCormick’s campaign said at least two counties — Blair and Allegheny — suggested they would not count the ballots as part of their unofficial result that each county must report to the state Tuesday.  Oz, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, led McCormick by 992 votes, or 0.07 percentage points, out of 1,341,037 ballots reported to the state as of 6 p.m. Monday.

The race is close enough to trigger Pennsylvania’s automatic recount law, with the separation between the candidates inside the law’s 0.5% margin. The Associated Press will not declare a winner in the race until the likely recount is complete.  Ruling in a separate case late Friday, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the state election law’s requirement of a date next to the voter’s signature on the outside of return envelopes was “immaterial.”  It’s not clear how many mail-in ballots that lack a handwritten date have been received by counties. Although he trails the vote count, McCormick has been doing better than Oz among mail-in ballots.

Meantime…

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — WHTM and AP are reporting… The Republican race for Pennsylvania’s open United States Senate seat is still too close to call and on Monday, the focus is on mail-in ballots that were not dated. The rules say toss them, but a federal court recently said otherwise and the state is still unsure how to proceed.  While candidate Dave McCormick shared with abc27’s Dennis Owens that he was feeling great just days after the race was too close to call, he would feel better if he wasn’t trailing candidate Mehmet Oz by about a thousand votes.

“There’s still many, many thousands of votes, Republican votes, that have not yet been counted,” McCormick said.  A federal court ruled Friday that mail-in ballots without a required date on the return envelope must be allowed in a 2021 Lehigh County judge race, a decision that could complicate the ongoing process of vote counting in the state’s neck-and-neck primary.  Elections officials, lawyers, and candidates are scrambling to understand and respond to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision, which was issued late in the day without a written opinion laying out its rationale.

“As more votes come in, I suspect the gap between myself and Mehmet Oz will close and we’ll see where we get,” McCormick said.  Analysts say it needs to get closer for the inevitable recount to matter.  “You’re not gonna see a recount change 1,050 votes you could see a recount change two or three hundred votes so it really depends on where does that final margin from election day in this race end up,” Chris Nicholas, Eagle Consulting Group, explained.  McCormick has been doing better than Oz among mail-in ballots and McCormick’s campaign quickly wrote to the state’s 67 counties to advise them of the decision and request a hearing if they won’t count the ballots in question.

“I think you’re thinking when are we gonna really unleash the lawyers, which is what this election is going to come down to,” said Danielle Gross, Shelly Lyons Communications.  McCormick pledged to support Oz, who declined abc27’s request for an interview, should his rival ultimately prevail.  “I’m willing to accept whatever the results will be as long as every vote is counted and that’s what I’ll be fighting for,” McCormick said.  As for mail-in ballots that are not dated, the counties are holding them aside.

Pennsylvania allowed only limited use of absentee mail-in ballots until 2019, when a state law permitted them for voters who did not otherwise qualify from a list of acceptable excuses. Mail-in ballots proved popular in 2020, as the pandemic raged, but their widespread use has also brought litigation over the new law.  A lawsuit seeking to invalidate the mail-in voting law is pending before the state Supreme Court. More than 2.5 million Pennsylvanians voted by mail during 2020′s presidential election, most of them Democrats, out of 6.9 million total votes.

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