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Republican Nomination For Pennsylvania U.S. Senate Race Uncertain As Thousands Of Mail-In Votes Still Being Counted

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Too close to call. We are waiting to find out who will be Pennsylvania's Republican Senate candidate this fall. With 98% of the vote counted, Mehmet Oz has a lead over Dave McCormick of a little more than 1,200 votes.

Who will emerge with a victory remains up in the air. Thousands of votes are still left to be counted across the commonwealth.

The root problem is the Pennsylvania law preventing election teams from opening, sorting and counting mail-in ballots until 7 a.m. on Election Day.

Brand new numbers just in from Philadelphia's chair of elections say it looks like one-third of the votes will be mail-in, and that there are still more than 20,000 mail-in ballots left to be counted one day after the election.

She predicts we won't see results until Thursday and possibly even Friday.

"It's a very simple thing with a very simple fix and it just hasn't gotten done," said Al Schmidt, president of the Committee of Seventy.

Pennsylvania voters once again are left to wait and wonder about their election results thanks to a state law that prevents pre-canvassing -- the opening and sorting of mail-in ballots -- until 7 a.m. on Election Day.

"Most other states have laws that allow counties to begin processing those mail-in ballots well before Election Day, which is not the case in Pennsylvania," Schmidt said.

While a number of reforms have been proposed since the presidential election in 2020, none have been signed, something Schmidt says simply comes down to politics.

"The Republican legislature included these reforms in their bills but they included a whole number of other things, like voter ID,  that the Democratic governor was unwilling to sign," Schmidt said.

Gov. Tom Wolf has argued those "other things" make it harder for underserved populations to vote but political experts warn these delays do the same thing.

"It definitely impacts voters who have a harder time making it to the polls on Election Day," Schmidt said.

"It is frustrating because it really doesn't have to be that way," Philadelphia chair of elections Lisa Deeley said.

For now, Philadelphia's chair of elections says the focus is getting it right.

"Mail-in voting is safe and it's secure. Don't be dismayed because of the length of time it takes. Know that there are people in there that are working feverishly in there to get it done and above all it's going to be accurate," Deeley said.

Pennsylvania election law requires an automatic recount if there is less than 0.5% separating the top two candidates for a state office.

Rutgers University–Camden associate political science professor Kelly Dittmar says while we are not there yet, it most likely won't swing the outcome.

"We should be used to this. This is democracy happening. This is good, We want them to take the time to get the vote right," Dittmar said. "Recounts very, very rarely change the results so it's not to say it couldn't happen. Obviously, this is a very close race so it could happen, but it's still not as close as some we have seen that also haven't changed in the recount."

In Lancaster County, about 22,000 mail-in ballots had scanning problems due to incorrect codes on the ballots. The county is working quickly and methodically to remake and properly process them, which could take a few days.

Given that Democrats vote more often by mail here, likely the margin for the Republican senate race between Oz and McCormick will hold and a recount is probable.

That would mean we likely wouldn't know the final results for up to three weeks.

CBS3's Alicia Roberts and Kerri Corrado contributed to this report.

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