David McCormick sues to get mail-in votes counted in Pennsylvania Senate race

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With a slender margin between the top candidates in the Pennsylvania Republican Senate primary, the race is almost certainly headed for a recount — and also for the court after candidate David McCormick’s recent attempt to ensure mail-in ballots without handwritten data are not discarded.

In a lawsuit filed Monday, McCormick alleged Pennsylvania County Electoral Boards were “holding voters in limbo” for refusing to count those absentee and mail-in ballots — something he described as a violation of “voting rights protections in the United States.” the framework of the right to vote” under the Federal Civil Rights Act and the Pennsylvania Constitution.”

McCormick is caught in a too-close race, trailing famed doctor Mehmet Oz by less than 0.1 percent — or about 987 votes, according to the Washington Post primary tracker. Under state law, a difference of 0.5 percent or less would trigger an automatic recount.

“These ballots were undeniably filed on time — they were date-stamped upon receipt — and no fraud or irregularity was alleged,” the lawsuit states.

Pennsylvania GOP Senate race likely to be recounted

Pennsylvania law requires voters in absentia or by mail to return their ballots by 8 p.m. on Election Day in a sealed envelope placed in a second envelope that they must “fill out, date and sign.” The outer envelope will then bear a postmark from the post office and a time stamp indicating when the counties received it.

The constitutionality of the appointment was questioned in a district election last year. A panel of three judges ruled on Friday that such a requirement was “irrelevant” – and thus, if used to reject a vote, constituted a violation of the Civil Rights Act. It also directed county election officials to count hundreds of ballots with no handwritten data, so long as they were received on time and “no fraud or irregularity was alleged.”

The verdict became the basis for McCormick’s complaint.

“Every Republican primary vote should be counted, including the votes of active-duty Pennsylvania military personnel who are risking their lives to defend our constitutional right to vote,” Jess Szymanski, a campaign spokeswoman, said in a statement to the Washington Post.

It’s unclear how many ballots are missing handwritten dates in the seven-candidate race to replace Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R), who is stepping down this year. Counties are still counting votes — like military and overseas votes — that could arrive later this week and are valid as long as they’re postmarked by Election Day on May 17.

McCormick, a former hedge fund boss and army veteran, ran head-to-head against Oz, who is backed by former President Donald Trump.

But McCormick could get closer to Oz by counting ballots without handwritten data. While Oz has done better with in-person voting, absentee ballots slightly favor McCormick, who received 32 percent of the state’s absentee votes versus Oz’s 23 percent, according to data from the Pennsylvania Department of State.

Oz’s campaign, meanwhile, firmly rejected McCormick’s offer to count what Oz called “legally rejected ballots,” in a statement that underscored Republicans’ increasingly negative attitude toward mail-in voting.

“Unfortunately, McCormick’s legal team is following the Democrats’ playbook, a tactic that could have long-term damaging consequences for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania election,” wrote Casey Contres, Oz’s campaign director, on Saturday. “There is a clear contrast between the efforts of Dr. Mehmet Oz to secure America’s democratic process.”

As Trump mistakenly attacks another election, Pa. officials belt for November

Vote-by-mail approval has become deeply partisan — particularly after Trump’s repeated false attacks on the voting method. According to a 2021 Pew Research Center study, 38 percent of Republicans supported allowing all voters to vote early or by mail; 84 percent of Democrats said the same thing.

In an opinion posted on TwitterThe Pennsylvania Republican Party said it would “absolutely oppose” counting mail-in ballots without handwritten dates in the hotly contested race — a message echoed by Trump when he urged Oz to declare himself the winner.

It would make it “much harder for them to cheat with the ballots they ‘found by accident,'” Trump wrote on Truth Social in a post that mimicked his attempts in 2020 to halt mail-in ballot counting in Pennsylvania.

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