Sunday, May 19, 2024

Fetterman Campaign Sues to Count Disqualified Absentee Ballots in PA Senate Race

If the attempt proves to be successful, and even if it doesn’t, it could be remembered as the 2022 Fetterman Gambit.

The campaign of Pennsylvania’s United States Senate candidate John Fetterman, a Democrat, has filed a last-minute suit against the Pennsylvania county board of elections over what the campaign suggests are thousands of absentee ballots that will not be counted because they are missing or have the wrong date.

Fetterman — the state’s current lieutenant governor running against Republican and TV physician Dr. Mehmet Oz — and his camp are suing to demand election officials count the undated or misdated midterm absentee ballots over what they characterize as a technicality. As such, they are asking all mail-in ballots be counted, regardless of whatever dates voters write on the outside of their envelopes.

The suit follows nearly a week after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered the board not count any absentee and mail-in ballots received for the Nov. 8 general election that are in undated or incorrectly dated envelopes.

The court also ruled that all misdated or undated ballots be taken out of the mix and preserved by the county board of elections, since the court was “evenly divided” over the issue of whether failing to count the ballots was a constitutional violation.

Pennsylvania requires all voters who submit ballots by mail to “fill out, date and sign the declaration” on the envelope in which the ballot is placed.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the Fetterman campaign filed the lawsuit in a Pittsburgh federal court and was joined by the Democrats’ U.S. House and Senate campaign arms. The suit also included two Democrat voters from Erie County who submitted undated mail-in ballots.

“The date [requirement] imposes unnecessary hurdles that eligible Pennsylvanians must clear to exercise their most fundamental right, resulting in otherwise valid votes being arbitrarily rejected without any reciprocal benefit to the Commonwealth,” the lawsuit reads, according to the Inquirer report.

Few races in the country have attracted as much attention and money as the Pennsylvania Senate race between Fetterman and Oz, which now is extremely close with recent polls giving a slight edge to Oz, who trailed Fetterman through much of the campaign.

In fact, despite suffering a stroke in May and not publicly campaigning for several months, Fetterman remained ahead in most polls through the duration of the contest.

Five polls conducted between mid-August and mid-September all showed Fetterman with a five-point lead. The largest advantage for Fetterman was an 18-point lead in an August poll sponsored by Pittsburgh Works Together and conducted by Public Opinion Strategies.

Fetterman maintained that comfortable 5-point lead at the start of last month and held a two-point advantage up until the two candidates met for their only debate Oct. 25.

To the extent there was some sort of voter attitudinal change, it was likely driven by more Republicans gravitating toward Oz, as the percentage of Republicans saying they’d vote for their nominee was up a week ago to 94 percent from 87 percent in September.