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As mail-in ballots continue to be counted, Mccormick narrows Oz's lead in Senate GOP nomination

As mail-in ballots continue to be counted, Mccormick narrows Oz's lead in Senate GOP nomination
As mail-in ballots continue to be counted, Mccormick narrows Oz's lead in Senate GOP nomination 02:32

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It's been six days since the Primary election, and we still do not know who won the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate.

This race is heading to overtime.

By late Monday, Mehmet Oz's lead over Dave McCormick dropped below 1,000 votes out of 1.3 million votes cast, as more of the Republican mail-in ballots were counted.

But it's not clear McCormick can overtake Oz, says Adam Bonin, a Pennsylvania elections attorney based in Philadelphia.

"They are gradually going in McCormick's favor. He is gaining about 90 votes on Oz out of every thousand, which is obviously a gain. But when you got more than a thousand to go, you need a lot more ballots than I think are still out there," Bonin told KDKA political editor Jon Delano.

As mail-in ballots continue to be counted, Mccormick narrows Oz's lead 03:06

On Monday afternoon, state election officials estimated about 5,400 Republican mail-in ballots still need to be counted. But this does not include provisional ballots that county election boards are now reviewing to see if they can be counted, and then there are military and overseas ballots still coming in.

"Federal law protects them. It says that these voters have an additional seven days to have their ballots received by their county board of elections as long as they've mailed it by Election Day," says Bonin.

In another wrinkle, Bonin says a court decision on Friday means certain unopened mail-in ballots are now likely to be counted.

State law requires a voter to date the outer envelope of the mail-in ballot, but a federal court says that violates federal law.

"Federal law says that you can't use things that are immaterial to a voter's qualifications to disqualify a ballot. In this case, whether or not a voter handwrites in a date on their envelope does not affect whether they voted on time," says Bonin.

"What affects whether they voted on time is when that ballot is received by their county board of elections," he adds.

McCormick's legal team has sent letters to all 67 counties asking them to be sure to count those Republican ballots as long as they were received on time.

Unofficial results must be reported to the state by the end of business on Tuesday, after which a $1 million taxpayer-paid recount will take place unless waived by the losing candidate.

"Recounts exist to make sure that in the 67 counties that there wasn't a machine that was accidentally missed, that there wasn't human error in terms of transcribing numbers," says Bonin.

That recount process is likely to be ordered by the Secretary of the Commonwealth later this week with a final result expected around June 7.  

This delay in getting to a final result was avoidable had Harrisburg done what local election officials requested.

"It just takes a little bit of time to count all of the ballots," says Bonin.

And why is that? Because the Republican-controlled General Assembly won't allow county election officials to pre-canvass mail-in ballots before 7 a.m. on Election Day.

Election officials in both parties want to get a head start like in other states but hold off counting the ballots until Election Day.

"It takes time, especially in the larger counties to review all of them, to check out all the information on the outside, and to go through the tasks of opening them, unfolding them, and running them through the machine," says Bonin.

So far, the Republican Legislature keeps tacking on election changes that the governor won't sign instead of sending a stand-alone bill to allow pre-canvassing of mail-in ballots, says Bonin.

"They have just refused to pass a clean bill which addresses bipartisan solutions, which the county commissioners want, which Democrats and Republicans generally want," Bonin said.

The result is this drip-drip-drip process that delays knowing for days the final outcome in close elections, and that gives rise to totally unproven talk of voter fraud.

As for this Republican primary, says Bonin, "There have been no allegations of anything corrupt or unseemly or unwarranted going on here."

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