A recount is almost certain in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, where the two leading candidates are separated by less than 0.1% of the vote a week after the May 17 election.
A lawsuit filed by Dave McCormick, who trailed Mehmet Oz by less than 1,000 votes on Tuesday morning, also threw the result in Pennsylvania courts.
Here’s a look at how this extremely thin election result could play out in the weeks to come.
What happens now? What are the deadlines for the Oz-McCormick PA primary for the Senate?
Pennsylvania’s 67 counties have until 5 p.m. on May 24 to submit their unofficial election results to the state. Each county is responsible for counting ballots in elections and submitting them to the Pennsylvania Secretary of State for certification.
In the event that a recount is required – it is mandatory in elections decided by 0.5% or less – the Secretary of State has until the second Thursday after Election Day to order a. That would mean a recount must be ordered by May 26.
How does an AP recount work?
The Secretary of State gives 24 hours notice to both candidates. This will let candidates and counties know when the recount will take place. The last recount may take place on the third Wednesday after polling day. It would be June 1.
Once the recount begins, counties have six days to complete the recount, meaning it will be completed no later than June 7 this year.
They must submit their recount results by noon the next day, June 8. The Secretary of State then publishes the results and a winner is declared.
Why did McCormick take legal action to have undated mail-in ballots count?
McCormick’s campaign sued the Secretary of State for Pennsylvania and the 67 counties on May 23 in Commonwealth Court to demand that undated ballots be counted in the election results. It’s an unusual request from a Republican, given that party leaders in Pennsylvania have consistently tried to suppress mail-in ballots with flaws.
Defects include the absence of a date on the ballot envelope or the absence of a signature by the voter. These missing elements have led to lawsuits in previous elections. In fact, a federal appeals court last week issued an order requiring undated mail-in ballots to be counted in the results of last November’s general election.
McCormick hopes to close Oz’s lead, or even overtake his opponent, before the recount.
“These ballots were unquestionably submitted on time – they were dated upon receipt – and no fraud or impropriety was alleged,” the McCormick lawsuit said. “The (county electoral) councils’ only basis for disenfranchising these voters is a technical error that does not matter under state law and federal law.”
The Commonwealth Court is expected to speed up a decision on McCormick’s trial. Their order could arrive by the end of the week. An appeal to the state Supreme Court could follow.
Do Republicans want to count undated ballots this election?
No, they don’t. Both state and national party organizations have said in statements that they oppose the counting of those ballots and any other defective ballots.
Meanwhile, Republican gubernatorial candidate in the November general election, Doug Mastriano, has said he supports scrapping universal mail-in voting if elected.
In Philadelphia, the Elections Commission chairwoman said she supports counting undated ballots and noted that she has long argued that default should not eliminate a voter’s ballot from the results.
The default has actually increased in number since universal mail-in voting was enacted in Pennsylvania in 2019, according to data provided this week by Philadelphia City Commissioner Lisa Deeley.
|Election||Percentage of absentee ballots returned without date|
|General Election 2020||0.6%|
|2021 primary election||2.1%|
|General Election 2021||2.4%|
|2022 Primary *Incomplete totals*||2.7%|
Will the PA count undated ballots?
The secretary of state, who oversees election certification, asked counties to count undated mail-in ballots as part of the overall May 17 primary results. However, counties must “separate” these ballots in case a court order determines that the ballots should not be counted.
The Secretary of State added in his advice to the counties that Governor Tom Wolf’s administration believes those votes should be counted.
“However, out of an abundance of caution, the Department advises that these ballots be segregated and remain segregated from all other ballots during the canvassing and tabulation process,” read the guidelines released May 24. “In other words, ballots with undated Ballot Return Envelopes, or with incorrectly dated Ballot Return Envelopes that have been set aside, should continue to be retained, retained and properly registered pending litigation, which we believe will be undertaken on an expedited basis.”