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McCormick's lawsuit to count all mail-in votes brings wrath of GOP

McCormick's lawsuit to count all mail-in votes brings wrath of GOP
McCormick's lawsuit to count all mail-in votes brings wrath of GOP 02:58

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - With Mehmet Oz leading Dave McCormick by just under a thousand votes for the Senate Republican nomination, McCormick has gone to court in a move that is splitting the Republican Party.

In a lawsuit filed first in Commonwealth Court, McCormick and his campaign committee are asking the court to order the counting of all undated but received on-time mail-in ballots.

In a statement to KDKA, Chuck Cooper, chief legal counsel to the McCormick campaign, said, "Because all ballots are time stamped by the county boards of elections on receipt, a voter's handwritten date is meaningless.  All timely ballots of qualified Republican voters should be counted."

State law requires voters to both sign and date the outer envelope of their mail-in ballots, but last Friday a federal appeals court held if the ballot was received on time, it need not be dated. 

In that case, brought by the ACLU of Pennsylvania in a judicial election, mail-in voters who forgot to fill in the date in both parties wanted their votes counted. Citing civil rights laws that protect the right to vote, the court agreed.

"They said, yes, in fact, the date plays no role, which means you cannot prevent a voter from having his or her ballot counted simply because they forgot the date," Vic Walczak, legal director for the Pennsylvania ACLU, told KDKA political editor Jon Delano.

In this case, McCormick, who so far has won 13,000 more mail-in ballots than Oz, clearly wants all mail-in votes counted in hopes of closing the gap with Oz.

In a statement – tweeted by Oz – from his campaign manager, the Oz campaign accused McCormick of "following the Democrats' playbook," adding the Oz campaign will oppose McCormick's request for county election boards to ignore state election law.  

Walczak says both candidates are acting rationally, given their political interests.

"I think it makes total sense for McCormick to want them counted. On the other hand, if you're winning now, you want to suppress any new ballots from entering into the mix, so that's where you're seeing Oz on the other side, saying, 'No, no, no. You can't count these.'"

McCormick's pitch – count all the votes – sounds like the Democrats who accuse Republicans of suppressing votes, so, no surprise, both the national and state Republican parties are not happy with McCormick's action. 

Walczak defends McCormick's action.

"People who forget to put the date on their ballot should have their ballots counted. That is not a reason to disenfranchise those individuals, and I think that is in the best tradition of ensuring that voters' ballots are counted whenever possible." says Walczak.

The federal court said that federal civil rights laws protecting the right to vote trumps the state law to date a ballot so long as the ballot arrived on time.  But Oz and his campaign promised to oppose the lawsuit, saying in a statement state law should not be ignored.

Joining the fray on behalf of Oz, the Pennsylvania Republican Party tweeted that it would intervene against McCormick, saying, "We absolutely object to the counting of undated mail-in ballots."

In another statement, state GOP chair Lawrence Tabas said the party was "protecting the rights of 2022 and future candidates" and was "in no way a change from party neutrality in this primary."

Republican national chair Ronna McDaniel joined in, tweeting, the National Republican Party would also intervene against McCormick, noting, "Election laws must be followed. We're intervening in a Pennsylvania legal battle. . . Pennsylvania law is clear: undated absentee ballots may not be counted."

While state law may be clear, the ACLU says both the state Supreme Court and now a federal appeals court have ruled in other cases in favor of counting undated mail-in ballots if received on time.

On Tuesday afternoon, the McCormick campaign filed directly with the state Supreme Court, urging it to use its extraordinary King's Bench authority to take up the case immediately.

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