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McCormick and Oz argue over undated ballot count

Mehmet Oz leads McCormick by about 1,100 votes on Saturday afternoon, or 0.1 percentage points. The primary is expected to go to a recount, which will be triggered if the top two candidates are separated by half a percentage point or less, unless the runner-up nods.

Election officials said they should have a good idea by Tuesday whether there will be a recount, and the state election official must officially make that decision by Thursday.

As the pending mail-in and mail-in ballots were tallied, McCormick, who is surpassing Oz in those polls, gained ground. On Friday morning, the State Department said there were about 8,300 Republican mail-in and mail-in ballots left to count. This number does not include any undated ballots.

There is still uncertainty in the state about the scope of the circuit court ruling beyond the 2021 justice election. The three-judge panel has yet to issue its formal opinion on the issue — which would further detail the court’s legal rationales and the ramifications of their judgment — and the Pennsylvania Department of State has also not issued official guidance to county election officials. This guidance could arrive as early as the beginning of next week.

Casey Contres, Oz’s campaign manager, said in a statement that “McCormick’s legal team is following the Democrats’ playbook” and will “oppose McCormick’s legal team’s request that election commissions ignore both the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and state election law and accept legally rejected ballots.

The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals issued its judgment on Friday that state law requiring ballots to be dated by the voter is ‘insignificant’ under federal law – meaning it should not affect the acceptance or rejection of ballots.

Federal law that originated in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that no one should be denied the right to vote in an election “by reason of any error or omission in any record or document relating to an application, registration or any other act required to vote”. , if such error or omission is not material to determining whether such person is qualified under state law to vote in this election. »

A battle between Republican Senate candidates over mail-in ballots — already a controversial method of voting among much of the GOP base after former President Donald Trump focused much of his post conspiracy theories -election on them – threatens to split the party before November. disputed election.

The state Supreme Court ruled shortly after the 2020 general election that ballots with missing dates should be counted. Crucially, the decisive fourth vote for this result wrote that in future elections, undated ballots could be disqualified for this reason, because voters would be widely informed of the requirement.

But state election officials, for example, are already accepting ballots on which voters write an incorrect date, such as their date of birth or a future date, according to state election attorneys.

Even after the 2020 state Supreme Court ruling, there have been disputes over undated ballots in the state. Republican lawmakers have threatened in 2021 to impeach Philadelphia election officials if they count mail-in ballots without dates.

The Federal Court’s ruling also wouldn’t affect ballots that arrived after the return deadline, which was when polls closed on Tuesday. These ballots would remain uncounted.

A State Department spokesperson said Friday it was not immediately clear how many undated ballots were received in time for this year’s primary.

In one example, a Philadelphia election official said there were about 100 Republican ballots without dates, although that number was expected to increase slightly because the city had not yet processed all mail-in and mail-in ballots. correspondence.

Ronald Hicks Jr., a McCormick campaign attorney, said in his letter that “[w]We hope that in light of the judgment of the Third Circuit, you will advise your respective councils to count all mail-in or mail-in ballots that were received in a timely manner but were voided/not counted simply because these ballots had no date provided by voters” and to the extent that you are unwilling to provide such advice, we request a formal hearing before your counsel on this matter.

Contres said “David McCormick has been a formidable adversary, but it’s becoming apparent that Dr. Mehmet Oz will likely miss him” and that his legal strategy “could have long-term adverse consequences for elections in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.” .”

State Department spokeswoman Ellen Lyon said she would advise counties on the impact of the federal court order on Tuesday’s election. She said the agency was “pleased” with the court’s interpretation, noting it would likely tell counties to count undated ballots.

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