Commonwealth Court President Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer issued an opinion Thursday granting a request by Republican Senate candidate Dave McCormick to permit ballots without a handwritten date on the outer envelope to be counted.
McCormick, a hedge fund CEO, trails Dr. Mehmet Oz, the celebrity heart surgeon, by fewer than 1,000 votes in the GOP primary.
Lawyers for McCormick argued that undated ballots deserve to be counted. They noted that the ballots were received on time and date stamped by the county election offices, which should suffice.
Lawyers for Oz, supported by the state and national Republican parties, had objected to McCormick’s petition, arguing he was trying to change the rules after the election.
Separately, the McCormick campaign has also asked for a hand recount of votes in precincts in 12 counties. Jubelirer is expected to hear arguments on that request Monday.
“The court notes that no party has asserted, or even hinted, that the issue before the court involves allegations of fraud,” Jubelirer wrote. “The parties have agreed that this election was free and fair. Nor is it disputed that the ballots in question were timely received, were cast by qualified Pennsylvania voters, and that ballots which had exterior envelopes that contained inaccurate dates, such as birth dates or dates that were clearly erroneous, were nonetheless opened, counted, and their votes included in the vote count.
“Finally, it is not disputed that county boards throughout the commonwealth are not uniform in how they are treating ballots that lack a date on the exterior envelope – some will not consider them at all, some are segregating them but not counting them, some are segregating and counting them but not reporting the vote in their totals, and some are segregating them, counting them, and including the recorded votes in their totals. Thus, without court action, there exists the very real possibility that voters within this commonwealth will not be treated equally depending on the county in which they vote.”
Jess Szymanski, a spokeswoman for the McCormick campaign said, “We are pleased the court agrees on ensuring valid Republican votes that were signed and returned on time, as shown by their time-stamp, are counted so the party can get behind a strong nominee in the fall to defeat John Fetterman and the Democrats’ socialist agenda.”
Jubelirer praised “the tireless and dedicated efforts of the county boards (of election) in the critical work of counting valid ballots. The court also commends the candidates for their dedication and efforts to ensure that the election process is undertaken in a manner consistent with state and federal law.
“Under the facts in this case, and where there has been no answer to how requiring a handwritten date on the outside envelope supports a weighty interest when ballots with incorrect dates on their exterior envelopes are counted, a substantial question is raised as to whether voters are being disenfranchised based on a requirement that is immaterial to a voter’s qualification in violation of… the Civil Rights Act and/or without a compelling reason in violation of state law.”
Oz, who was endorsed by former President Trump, has already declared himself the “presumptive” nominee. His campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment.