Pennsylvania Court Orders Disputed Ballots Counted in US Senate Contest

Pennsylvania Court Orders Disputed Ballots Counted in US Senate Contest
David McCormick is currently locked in a tight contest for a U.S. Senate seat with Dr. Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania's GOP primary. (Photo courtesy of David McCormick's Facebook page)
Matthew Vadum

A Pennsylvania state court ruled in favor of former hedge fund CEO David McCormick, who is locked in a tight Republican primary contest for a U.S. Senate seat against celebrity heart surgeon Mehmet Oz, ordering late on June 2 that contested ballots be included in the count.

Oz and McCormick are now duking it out in a statewide recount over less than a thousand votes. The primary vote took place May 17. Former President Donald Trump endorsed Oz’s candidacy.

Oz was slightly ahead in unofficial results with 31.2 percent (419,661 votes), followed by McCormick at 31.1 percent (418,688 votes), Kathy Barnette at 24.7 percent (331,585 votes), and Carla Sands at 5.4 percent (73,269), Politico reported at midday June 3.

State law requires that ballots received on time but missing a handwritten date on the envelope are to be rejected.

McCormick’s campaign filed suit on May 23 against Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth Leigh M. Chapman and county boards of elections. The campaign said the boards were refusing to count absentee and mail-in ballots in the primary election that were received on time and stamped by the county boards but on which voters failed to write a date on the exterior mailing envelope. The campaign asked the court to declare that absentee and mail-in ballots received by the deadline “may not be rejected due solely to the lack of a date in the declaration on the exterior envelope.”

The undated mail ballots at issue in the case were “indisputably submitted on time—they were date-stamped upon receipt—and no fraud or irregularity has been alleged,” McCormick’s attorneys argued in the lawsuit, as The Epoch Times reported.
“The … only basis for disenfranchising these voters is a technical error that is immaterial under both state and federal law,” they added. McCormick’s campaign also sent a letter to the state’s counties urging that mail-in and absentee ballots filed without dates on their envelopes be counted.

The Pennsylvania Republican Party objects to undated mail-in ballots being counted.

Oz’s campaign manager Casey Contres said previously that “the McCormick legal team is following the Democrats’ playbook, a tactic that could have long-term harmful consequences for elections in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” according to a statement.

On June 2, Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court directed county boards “to segregate the ballots that lack a dated exterior envelope [and] to canvass those ballots assuming there are no other deficiencies or irregularities that would require otherwise.” She also ordered that two vote tallies—one including the disputed ballots and one without—be forwarded to Chapman, according to the 40-page memorandum opinion (pdf) issued by the court late on June 2.

A dispute over ballots in a separate Pennsylvania election is also before the Supreme Court. The end result in the litigation could affect the race between McCormick and Oz.

On May 27, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit ordered (pdf) the state to count undated mail-in ballots in a state judicial election in Lehigh County between Republican David Ritter and Democrat Zachary Cohen.
But on May 31, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito temporarily stayed (pdf) the 3rd Circuit ruling “pending further order of the undersigned or of the Court.” The case is known as Ritter v. Migliori, court file 21A772.
Katabella Roberts contributed to this article.