State Senate seat still in question: will certified winner be sworn in?

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The election was nearly seven weeks ago, but there’s still a state Senate race that’s not completely decided–even though it’s been certified. There’s ongoing confusion over Swearing-In Day.

It certainly appears Democrat Jim Brewster defeated Republican Nicole Ziccarelli for a Senate seat in Westmoreland and Allegheny counties.

Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar certified it Wednesday. Senate Democrats sent out a congratulatory email. And Brewster is confident he won fair and square.

“There’s no question about it,” he said.

But Ziccarelli’s attorney says not so fast.

“It’s in federal court right now,” her attorney, Matt Haverstick said.

The issue in question is mail-in ballots without dates. The directions said voters should sign and date their ballots. Allegheny counted undated ones. Westmoreland did not.

If un-dated ballots count, Brewster wins by 80. If they’re tossed, Ziccarelli wins by 20.

Senator Jake Corman tweeted, saying Secretary of State Boockvar took an oath to uphold the state constitution and not the state Democrats.

“This has all the hallmarks of a drawn-up play by the Secretary to concoct this, and then on Twitter, they declare themselves the winner. Not in a court of law, on Twitter. I think it’s a disgrace,” Haverstick said.

Dates make the issue thornier. Senators are sworn in Jan. 5, 2021. Federal court won’t hear the case until three days later on Jan. 8. Can Senate Republicans refuse to seat a lawmaker who’s victory has been certified?

A court is about to tested.

“We have to be very careful that we continue to send the message that when people go through a process like this that is mean something,” Brewster said.

ABC27 News sought clarity from the Department of State and asked point blank, “should mail-in ballots without dates count?” They said because of the lawsuit they couldn’t comment.

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