David McCormick, one of two remaining Republican candidates for Senate in Pennsylvania, filed a lawsuit on Monday requesting that counties don’t discard absentee and mail-in ballots that lack handwritten dates. Mehmet Oz, the preferred candidate of former President Donald Trump, currently leads McCormick by fewer than 1,000 votes, and according to Maggie Haberman of The New York Times, the Republican National Committee and the Pennsylvania Republican Party are intervening to ensure these undated ballots are not counted.
Under state law, ballots must be sealed and returned to election offices inside a second, outer envelop that voters must “fill out, date and sign.” The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Friday, however, that the requirement of a date beside one’s signature was “immaterial.” That three-judge panel concluded that rejecting a ballot based on a lack of signature would violate the Civil Rights Act. The ruling was made in a separate case involving a 2021 county judicial election, but McCormick’s team is citing it in arguing that the ballots should be counted.
The GOP wants those ballots, cast by Republicans, to be tossed. “The RNC is intervening in this lawsuit alongside the Pennsylvania GOP because election laws are meant to be followed, and changing the rules when ballots are already being counted harms the integrity of our elections,” the RNC said in a statement. “Either of Pennsylvania’s leading Republican Senate candidates would represent the Keystone State better than a Democrat, but Pennsylvania law is clear that undated absentee ballots may not be counted. This is another example of the RNC’s ironclad commitment to ensuring that the highest standards of transparency and security are upheld throughout the election process.”
The Pennsylvania GOP released a similar statement.
— PA GOP (@PAGOP) May 24, 2022
Mail-in ballots have tended to favor McCormick (about 45,800 to 33,000 as of Tuesday morning) while Oz has generally performed better with Election Day votes — in line with candidates endorsed by Trump, who has lobbed baseless attacks on the integrity of mail-in voting ever since the lead-up to the 2020 election. It is unclear how many undated ballots exist. “These ballots were indisputably submitted on time — they were date-stamped upon receipt — and no fraud or irregularity has been alleged,” McCormick’s lawsuit states.
The vote-counting process is still continuing a week after Election Day as overseas and military ballots come in. Valid ballots must be postmarked on or before May 17. McCormick, an Army veteran, has expressed confidence that these votes will help put him over the top.
The Oz campaign is of course seeking to get undated ballots tossed, along with the RNC and the state’s Republican Party. “Unfortunately, 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,” Oz’s campaign manager wrote Saturday.
The difference between Oz and McCormick is well within the 0.5 percent margin required for a recount, which could last until June 8.