May 17 Primary Races Go Into Overtime

Acting Pennsylvania Secretary of State Leigh Chapman announced on May 25 the race between contenders for the GOP Senate nomination Mehmet Oz and Dave McCormick will go to recount by June 1, with the recount to be completed by June 7. Out of a total of more than 1.3 million votes cast, Oz led McCormick by a mere 902 votes at the time of the recount announcement – well below the 0.5 percent trigger for a recount under state law.

The day before Chapman made the recount announcement, the McCormick campaign petitioned Commonwealth Court to issue an order requiring all counties to count undated mail-in and absentee ballots received by May 17, following a Third Circuit decision in a case involving a Lehigh County judicial race. The Third Circuit’s opinion directed the county to tally undated ballots if they were received on time. Current state law requires mail-in and absentee votes to be signed and dated by the voter; however, the Third Circuit found that the date requirement should be set aside, citing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Commonwealth Court will hear arguments on the issue this week. According to Acting Secretary Leigh Chapman, as of May 25, there were just 860 undated GOP mail-ins statewide. Chapman also reported there were 4,000 absentee ballots from military and overseas being adjudicated, along with 6,000 provisionals, though she did not provide a breakdown by party.

The margin between Oz and McCormick will be the closest election in the state’s history to go to recount, according to the Department of State. According to the agency, in every prior recount under current law, the leading candidate going into the recount prevailed.

Two more primary races, both in the Lehigh Valley, may also go to recount – the races for the GOP nomination in the 16th senatorial district and for the Democratic nomination in the newly created 14th senatorial district. On the former, incumbent Senator (and Appropriations Chairman) Pat Browne trails challenger Jarrett Coleman by just 19 votes at the time of this writing. In the latter, 87 votes separate Nicholas Miller and Tara Zrinksi in the race to take on GOP opponent Dean Browning in the fall. Candidates for state house and senate seats who trail their opponents by less than 0.5 percent can request a recount; at the time of writing, the Browne and Zrinski campaigns have not announced their decisions.


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