Updated May 23, 2022 - Politics & Policy

GOP primary turns into a war over mail-in voting

David McCormick. Photo: Nate Smallwood/Bloomberg via Getty Images

U.S. Senate candidate David McCormick has filed a lawsuit in a Pennsylvania court to make sure all Republican mail-in ballots submitted without a handwritten signature can be counted in the tightly contested primary race.

Why it matters: If successful, the move could help close the gap between McCormick and his opponent Dr. Mehmet Oz in the primary showdown, which is on the verge of a potential recall.

State of play: The lawsuit, filed late Monday in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, asks the state to force all 67 of the counties' boards of elections to count Republican mail-in ballot votes submitted on time without a handwritten date on the envelope.

  • The basis for the case is a previous federal appellate court ruling that such ballots should be counted, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
  • "This litigation is to compel the counties to follow the 3rd circuit court order from last week stating that undated ballots returned [on] time, which are also postmarked so technically dated, be counted," a spokesperson for McCormick's campaign told Axios.

The other side: "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 campaign manager Casey Contres said in a tweet.

  • "Dr. Mehmet Oz continues to respectfully allow Pennsylvania's vote-counting process to take place and puts his faith in the Republican voters who we believe have chosen him as their nominee," he said.

Context: McCormick filed the lawsuit as the Oz campaign filed a legal motion for a "global challenge to Republican voters" against ballots that were not signed in Philadelphia county, a McCormick spokesperson told Axios.

  • Oz's team pointed to Contres' earlier tweet when asked for comment.
  • A spokesperson for McCormick's campaign said he's committed to ensuring "every valid Republican vote is counted," while the Oz's team is "fighting to disenfranchise Republican votes."

What they're saying: "Both the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit have held that mail-in ballots should not be disqualified simply because the voters failed to hand write a date on the exterior mailing envelope of their ballots,” McCormick campaign Chief Legal Counsel Chuck Cooper told the Washington Examiner in a statement.

Flashback: A Republican-led Pennsylvania court ruled in January 2022 that the state's mail-in voting law was unconstitutional, saying no-excuse mail-in voting is prohibited under the state's own constitution.

  • Republicans first sought to overturn mail-in voting laws after Trump's loss in 2020 after they were unsuccessful in disqualifying millions of mail votes, per the Philadelphia Inquirer.
  • "Here we go again! In Pennsylvania they are unable to count the Mail-In Ballots. It is a BIG MESS," said former President Donald Trump in a Truth Social post, Business Insider reported.

The big picture: Trump-endorsed Oz and former hedge fund CEO McCormick are nearing a statewide recount for its Senate Republican primary.

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