It appears inevitable that the Republican nomination for this fall’s U.S. Senate general election will come down to a recount.
Mehmet Oz leads Dave McCormick by approximately 1,000 votes as of this writing or 0.1 percent – well within the 0.5% threshold required by Pennsylvania law.
It is highly unlikely that McCormick will waive his right to a recount under section 1404(h) of the Election Code, 25 P.S. § 3154(h).
So what happens now?
Tuesday, May 24
This is the last day for County Board of Elections to receive voted military and overseas absentee ballots (submitted for delivery no later than 11:59 P.M. on May 16). Counties are required to send their unofficial results to the Department of State.
Thursday, May 26
Under Commonwealth law (in statewide races only), if the differential in a race is 0.5 percent or less, an automatic recount is triggered. The only way a recount does not take place is if the trailing candidate waives his/her right. If that does not occur, the acting Secretary of State must issue an order for a recount no later than 5 PM today.
Wednesday, June 1
The recount begins. The county boards must recount all ballots using manual, mechanical or electronic devices of a different type than that used for the specific election. This means paper ballots can be counted by hand.
Tuesday, June 7
The recount must be completed no later than noon.
Wednesday, June 8
The county boards of elections must submit the results of the recount no later than Noon. The Department of State will announce the official results of the recount.
What is still unclear if there are legal challenges to the mail-in ballots that were not accepted due to a lack of date on the outer envelope. Should a challenge be heard by Commonwealth Court, counties would be unable to complete a recount until the nine-member court rendered its decision.
It is not out of the question that McCormick could flip the results on Oz.
During the 2021 recount for Commonwealth Court judge, Lori Dumas led Drew Crompton by 15,700 votes or 0.34% of the vote. After a recount was conducted, Dumas finished with an additional 6,300 votes out of more than two million cast. The 2011 Democratic primary for Commonwealth Court saw 64 votes change hands in the recount, while the 2009 Superior Count recount ended with approximately 500 votes reverting to the other candidate.
It would be the sixth recount triggered in a statewide race since 2004, when the process was made automatic under Act 97.
November 2009: Superior Court
- Nine candidates were competing for four vacancies. In that election, there was a difference of 3,330 votes between the fourth- and sixth-place candidates (Anne Lazarus, Robert Colville and Temp Smith), and a margin of 2,006 votes between the fourth- and fifth-place finishers (Lazarus, Colville). Colville waived his right to a recount but Smith did not. The recount affirmed the initial results.
May 2011: Commonwealth Court, Democratic primary
- The margin between the two candidates (Kathy Boockvar, Barbara Ernsberger) was 2,116 votes. The recount affirmed the initial results.
On three occasions (2010-17-19), the trailing candidate waived their right to a recount.
The Senate race is the closest statewide primary in Pennsylvania since 1964 when Genevieve Blatt, secretary of internal affairs, won the Democratic Senate primary over state Supreme Court Justice Michael Musmanno by 491 votes out of 1 million cast or 0.05%. Blatt, the first woman to win elected statewide office in the state in 1954, was defeated by incumbent Republican Hugh Scott in the general.
Since 2000, the tightest Senate primary in PA was in 2004 when Arlen Specter defeated Pat Toomey by 1.76%
The Commonwealth does reimburse counties for expenses in conducting the recount which are expected to be around $1.3 million.