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Federal Court Decision Could Affect Pennsylvania Senate Primary

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


A federal court has stepped in to an election in Pennsylvania that could have effects on the Republican Senate primary between Dr. Mehmet Oz and David McCormick.

The case involves a judicial election in the state in which an appellate court has declared ballots that arrived on time but with no date on them must be counted.

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But those ballots likely contain votes for other offices and, for the Republican ones would conceivably contain votes for the Republican Senate primary, Politico reported.

A spokesperson for the Department of State told POLITICO that it was not immediately clear how many ballots that were otherwise received in a timely fashion by county election officials were rejected because of a missing date. Ellen Lyon, a spokesperson for the agency, said that it would be “surveying counties to get that figure and issuing guidance to support them,” and anticipated having that information early next week.

But as an example, Nick Custodio, a deputy Philadelphia city commissioner, said there were 2,100 mail and absentee ballots that had been received without dates in Philadelphia as of Friday afternoon. Of those, about 100 were Republican ballots.

He said that number would go up slightly, however, because officials had not yet completed processing mail ballots.

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Lyon said the department was “pleased” with the federal court’s interpretation of the statute, a likely sign that the forthcoming guidance would instruct counties to count un-dated ballots. But absent that guidance or the full opinion from the court, it is not immediately clear how local election officials across the state will handle similar ballots for Tuesday’s primary.

Ballots that arrived after the day of the election are not affected by the decision and will not be counted.

Adam Bonin, a Democratic election attorney who was part of the case said the decision should how counties count the votes.

“Look, you have a federal Court of Appeals ruling in unmistakable terms that the date requirement is immaterial,” he said.

“This is what the Department of State said: It just has to have a date on it,” he said. “And all the ballots, when they’re received by the counties, they get time-stamped, they get clocked in. So we know that they arrived on time. … So whether or not a voter handwrites in the date, it doesn’t matter at all. And I’m glad that this court recognized it.”

“The numbers of undated ballots are scary,” Philadelphia City Commissioner Lisa Deeley, who said the decision was a “major victory” for voters, said. “And even if the number were five, it’s still five too many. A voter’s done everything. They filled out the application. They got the ballot. We know we got the ballot back in time. … So it just always seemed like an unnecessary step and I’m glad that the federal court agreed.”

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The Republican primary race for Pennsylvania’s open U.S. Senate seat is still too close to call as of Thursday.

An election tracker from The New York Times reports that 98% of the expected vote has been counted.

Television host Dr. Mehmet Oz, who was endorsed by Donald Trump, has a slight edge over former hedge fund CEO David McCormick.

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As of Thursday afternoon, Oz has 31.2% of the vote and McCormick has 31.1%. Conservative commentator Kathy Barnette is sitting at 24.7%.

The most likely outcome is that this race is headed for a recount.

Both Oz and McCormick acknowledged that a winner wouldn’t be determined on Tuesday night.

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“We’re not going to have a result tonight,” Oz told supporters, predicting that “after the votes are tallied, I am confident that we will win. We are making a ferocious charge.”

Oz made a point to thank Trump first during his speech.

“Let’s start with 45 – President Trump,” Oz said to cheers. “President Trump, after he endorsed me, continued to lean into this race in Pennsylvania…. God bless you sir for putting so much effort into this race. I will make you proud.”

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