Republicans Seek Pennsylvania Voters’ Personal Information in 2020 Review
G.O.P. lawmakers approved subpoenas seeking license and partial Social Security numbers for every voter. Democrats questioned whether the move was even legal.,
Republicans seek Pennsylvania voters’ personal information as they try to review the 2020 results.
- Sept. 15, 2021Updated 12:58 p.m. ET
Pennsylvania Republicans moved on Wednesday to seek personal information on every voter in the state as part of a brewing partisan review of the 2020 election results, rubber-stamping more than a dozen subpoenas for driver’s license numbers and partial Social Security numbers.
The expansive request for personal information, directed at Pennsylvania’s Department of State and approved in a vote by Republicans on a State Senate subcommittee, is the first major step of the election inquiry. The move adds Pennsylvania to a growing list of states that have embarked on partisan-led reviews of the 2020 election, including a widely criticized attempt to undermine the outcome in Arizona’s largest county.
Democrats in the Senate questioned whether the committee even had the authority to request such information, which state law generally shields from public disclosure, and denounced the investigation as nakedly partisan and unfounded.
The subpoenas, 17 in all, also included a request for communications between state and county election officials. They did not include requests for election machines or equipment.
Republicans in several states have pursued similar reviews — misleadingly labeled “audits” to suggest an authoritative nonpartisan investigation — in the name of protecting “election integrity.” The reviews have often centered on baseless claims and debunked conspiracy theories about the presidential contest, spurred in part by the falsehoods promoted by former President Donald J. Trump and his allies.
President Biden won Pennsylvania by more than 80,000 votes, and the results have been reaffirmed by the state’s Department of State.
“The entirety of our proceedings today, issuing subpoenas, is based upon such a noncredible foundation,” said Anthony H. Williams, a Democratic state senator who represents an area near Philadelphia. He added that it was “very troubling and, in fact, leads us to darker days in this country, such as when hearings like these, during the McCarthy era, were held, where voices were silenced and liberties were denied, being bullied by the power of the government.”
State Senator Jake Corman, the top Republican in the chamber, who approved the review last month, portrayed the investigation as merely trying to inform future legislation and lashed back at Democrats, asking what they were “scared of.”
“All we’re doing is seeking facts, seeking information, so that we can make better public policy,” Mr. Corman said.
When questioned by Democrats as to why voters’ Social Security and driver’s license information was necessary for the investigation, State Senator Cris Dush, who is leading the review as chair of the Governmental Operations Committee, brought up unspecific and unfounded claims of ineligible voters casting ballots in the Pennsylvania election.
“Because there have been questions regarding the validity of people who have voted, whether or not they exist,” Mr. Dush said. “Again, we’re not responding to proven allegations, we are investigating the allegations to determine whether or not they are factual.”
He continued: “If we have the sum errors within the voter registration system which allow for such activity, then we have a responsibility as a legislature to create legislation which will prevent that from happening in future elections.”
A chief concern of Democrats, beyond the subpoenas, was which people or companies might gain access to the stockpile of personal information for the nearly seven million Pennsylvanians who cast a ballot in the 2020 election.
State Senator Steven J. Santarsiero, a Democrat from the Philadelphia suburbs, pressed Mr. Dush on his selection process. Mr. Santarsiero asked specifically whether any of the vendors the Republicans are considering have ties to Sidney Powell, the lawyer who has popularized many false conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.
“The answer to that is I really don’t know, because it is not something that is relevant to my determination,” Mr. Dush responded.
“So it’s possible, then?” Mr. Santarsiero asked.
“It is absolutely possible,” Mr. Dush said.
The subpoenas are likely to face pushback from the administration of Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat. Veronica Degraffenreid, the acting secretary of state, has advised counties not to comply with previous requests for election information and machines from the Republican-controlled State Senate.