HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Recounting began Friday in the too-close-to-call Republican primary contest for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, with barely 900 votes separating celebrity heart surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz and former hedge fund CEO David McCormick.
Montour County began the recount Friday, one of seven counties that said they would start right away. Most of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties have said they will begin next week, with a Wednesday deadline to start.
For less populated counties, the process could take a day. More heavily populated counties say they will need several days.
“You know, what we’ll end up having to do is to outsort the democratic ballots, so we only have Republican ballots to count, and then we have to swap machines so we count all of our election day ballots on the machines we use to count mail-ins and vice versa, and so we know how to do this and it shouldn’t be too difficult,” said Mercer County Elections Director Thad Hall.
Counties have until June 7 to finish a recount and another day to report results to the state.
The initial result from last week’s primary election has remained elusive, since some counties were still tallying up hundreds or thousands of remaining ballots Friday, including write-in, provisional and absentee ballots from voters overseas and members of the military.
The race has triggered Pennsylvania’s automatic recount law, with the separation between the candidates inside the law’s 0.5% margin. The Associated Press will not declare a winner in the race until the recount is complete on June 8.
In a video statement declaring victory, Oz called himself “blessed to have earned the presumptive Republican nomination” and called it a “tough campaign.”
The winner of the GOP race will take on the Democratic nominee, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, in November’s midterm contest. Democrats see it as their best opportunity to pick up a seat in the closely divided Senate. Republican Sen. Pat Toomey is retiring after serving two terms.
McCormick’s campaign, meanwhile, has been waging a fight in court to scrounge for votes that might help him close the gap with Oz.
Oz, the Republican National Committee and the state Republican Party oppose McCormick’s quest to force counties to count certain mail-in ballots — ones without the voter’s handwritten date on the envelope — that might otherwise get thrown out on a technicality.
A separate case involving those ballots from last November’s election was expected to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday denied a motion to stay its earlier decision that such ballots should be counted, despite the state election law’s requirement that voters write a date on the return envelope.