Senate Republicans filed a legal brief in Commonwealth Court on Friday in defense of their efforts to subpoena personal voter information as part of their probe into the state’s 2020 and 2021 election results. The fate of the subpoena, which was approved by a GOP-led panel leading the probe in September, is currently tied up in court after Democrats challenged its legality.
The development is the latest in a contentious saga between Senate Republicans and Democrats, who are at odds over the need to conduct a “forensic investigation” of the state’s election results. The probe comes amid calls from former President Donald Trump to audit the 2020 presidential election results, as he continues to push claims of widespread voter fraud that have been refuted by courts and election officials.
In Friday’s legal brief, Republican leaders defended their effort to review the state’s recent elections and their ability to seek the names, addresses, driver’s license numbers and partial social security numbers of Pennsylvania voters.
Republicans cited provisions in the state’s Administrative Code requiring the Pennsylvania Department of State to “permit any committee of either branch of the General Assembly to inspect and examine the books, papers, records and accounts” filed in the department. The brief also argues that similar information to what is being sought by the GOP-led Senate Intergovernmental Affairs Committee was given to third-party organizations in the past.
“Not only is information requested in the Subpoena publicly available under State law, but public records also demonstrate that all of that data, including the DLNs and Partial SSNs, have been released by the Commonwealth and the Department of State to other entities on multiple occasions,” the filing reads.
The document also alleges that other third-party entities have had access to voter data and information contained in the SURE system, the statewide registry containing voter registration information. The filing singles out both the private vendor who maintains the system, BPro, as well as the League of Women Voters, which voluntarily received the information it sought, with the exception of Social Security Numbers.
State Sen. Cris Dush, chair of the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee, said in a statement that because the Department of State has provided third-party access to voter data in the past, the committee’s subpoena should be honored.
“If they gave that information to a private third-party group then, how can they possibly argue against transferring that data to another co-equal branch of government now?” Dush asked.
Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa expressed concerns about the type of voter data being requested by the committee, as well as the refusal from Senate Republicans to disclose what third-party vendors they are considering to assist their investigation into the state's recent elections.
“The records requested in this partisan audit at the behest of former President Donald Trump are extensive and worrisome. Senate Republicans have not been transparent in their process of finding a vendor to complete their “audit,” which is an even greater cause for concern. What they are asking for is simply without reasonable precedent or justification," Costa said in a statement. "It would behoove the Senate Republicans to move on from a former President’s baseless complaints and expend their energy on matters that impact Pennsylvania – like the $7 billion waiting to be spend from our American Rescue Plan allotment.”
The state-level effort to investigate the state’s elections has received national media attention amid claims from Trump that the election was marred by widespread voter fraud. Republicans leading Pennsylvania’s probe, however, have said that the investigation is not an attempt to relitigate the 2020 presidential election.
Speaking at a Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee meeting in September, Dush said: “This investigation is not about overturning the results of any election, as some would suggest. That horse is out of the barn as far as this investigation is concerned.”
Democrats have argued that the investigation is nothing more than a political stunt to appease Trump and Republican voters. Costa told City & State in August that the probe’s intent is to undermine confidence in elections.
“This is clearly a political maneuver that comes right out of the political Republican playbooks across the country, again, to undermine the integrity of elections across the country,” Costa said.