Legal challenges to a Republican-led investigation into Pennsylvania’s recent elections are beginning to mount.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced Thursday that he is suing state Senate Republicans over an effort to subpoena the personal information of roughly 8.7 million voters as part of a probe into the state’s 2020 election results.
Shapiro, in a call with reporters, said the state Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committeee’s subpoenas requesting personal identifying information of voters raises “significant privacy risks.” He said the release of that information would violate privacy protections in the state constitution.
“The committee’s subpoenas would turn over extremely sensitive data – including the last four digits of Social Security numbers, driver's license numbers, dates of birth, addresses – to some mystery third party company,” Shapiro said. “Their subpoenas were largely a stunt, because the vast majority of data that they are requesting is publicly available. But by trying to pry into driver's license numbers and Social Security numbers, we believe they have gone too far.”
Shapiro also criticized Senate Republicans leading the probe, accusing them of putting politics ahead of personal privacy.
“These legislators need to put the law, put their oath of office and put the security of Pennsylvanians’ personal data before their bogus lie about the 2020 election,” he said.
The lawsuit, which was filed in Commonwealth Court, asks the court to declare the subpoenas invalid, with Shapiro’s office arguing that the subpoenas violate privacy protections, and that they were issued without a “legitimate legislative purpose.”
The election review is being spearheaded by the GOP-led Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee and comes amid pressure from former president Donald Trump and his supporters who allege that the 2020 presidential election was stolen and marred by fraud.
The committee voted on Sept. 15 to issue 17 subpoenas to the Pennsylvania Department of State seeking the names, dates of birth, addresses, driver’s license numbers and last four digits of the Social Security numbers of all registered voters in the state, among other information.
The state-level investigation initially sought access to ballots, voting machines and software from three Pennsylvania counties, but the three counties in question refused to comply after the Pennsylvania Department of State threatened to decertify the voting machines of any county that allowed third-party access into its machines.
After that effort failed to gain traction, Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman stripped state Sen. Doug Mastriano of his committee chairmanship and instead tapped state Sen. Cris Dush to lead the investigation.
Dush has said the review isn’t meant to relitigate the 2020 presidential election, but to give lawmakers the necessary information to update the state’s election laws.
Shapiro isn’t the first to challenge the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee’s subpoenas.
Senate Democrats on the Intergovernmental Operations Committee filed a lawsuit in Commonwealth Court after the committee voted along party lines to subpoena the voter records.
Democrats are asking the court to block the subpoenas, arguing that the probe would jeopardize protected information and that the GOP-led committee doesn’t have the authority to audit elections. The same Democrats also asked the court to prohibit the committee from hiring a third-party vendor to assist with the investigation.
Barring any court rulings, the Department of State currently has until Oct. 1 to respond to the committee’s subpoenas.