HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania’s top election official said Wednesday the margin between the top two Republican candidates in last week’s U.S. Senate primary was tight enough to trigger a statewide recount, bringing the result in June as the candidates battle it out in court.
The state’s acting secretary of state, Leigh Chapman, said the difference in the vote totals for the top two – famed heart surgeon Dr Mehmet Oz and former hedge fund CEO David McCormick – lies within the margin of state law for a mandatory recount.
Oz, which is endorsed by former President Donald Trump, led McCormick by 902 votes, or 0.07 percentage points, out of 1,343,643 ballots reported by the state Wednesday.
A question for McCormick’s campaign is whether there are enough ballots in circulation for him to make up the difference with Oz.
The State Department estimated that there were about 10,000 provisional and absentee ballots left to count in counties, but it did not know how many were cast by Republican voters.
There are 860 other Republican mail-in ballots without handwritten dates on their envelopes that are the subject of court cases, department officials said.
During a recount, most ballots are simply rescanned electronically. Election workers check ballots by hand if a scanner registered no votes or rejected them as a double vote, and they could find more voters there, election lawyers say.
The biggest shift in votes could come from the discovery of a data-entry error, human error — like transposed numbers when counting constituency vote data — that could go either way, say- they.
Under Pennsylvania recount law, the split between contestants must be within the 0.5% margin of the law. The Associated Press will not declare a winner of the race until the recount is complete. It could take until June 8.
The winner will face Democratic Lt. Governor John Fetterman in November’s midterm elections in what Democrats see as their best chance to land a seat in the tightly divided Senate. The incumbent, Republican Senator Pat Toomey, is retiring after serving two terms.
The deadline for counties to report their unofficial results to the state election office was Tuesday. Even so, counties continued to count thousands of ballots Wednesday, including provisional, military and overseas mail-in ballots.
Chapman’s recount order is binding – unless the losing candidate requests that it not be carried out. McCormick had no plans to decline a recount and said in a statement that “we look forward to an early resolution so our party can unite and defeat” Fetterman in the fall.
Counties will begin the recount next week and will have until June 7 to complete and another day to report the results to the state.
In those cases, McCormick hopes to get help closing the voting gap with Oz.
His campaign asked the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to compel counties to quickly count those ballots. A lower court ordered a hearing on the matter next Tuesday.
Oz, the Republican National Committee, and the state Republican Party oppose McCormick’s request. A separate case that affects those same ballots could go to the U.S. Supreme Court.