Pennsylvania GOPers Now Seek Personal Information From Voters In Sham ‘Audit’

Pennsylvania state Sen. Chris Dush (R) during Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee's vote to authorize the issuance of subpoenas. (Screenshot: Pennsylvania Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee)
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September 15, 2021 3:42 p.m.

Pennsylvania state Senate Republicans on Wednesday took their long-delayed “audit” of the 2020 election results up a notch by authorizing subpoenas for personal information on every registered voter in the commonwealth.

On Wednesday, the state Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee voted 7-4 along party lines to authorize 17 subpoenas that allows the panel to seek information from Gov. Tom Wolf’s (D) administration on registered voters’ names, addresses, driver’s licenses and partial social security numbers from last November. The GOP-led subpoenas also request lists of voters who participated in the 2020 elections and the May 2021 primary — a move that Republicans claimed would help verify the identity of voters.

The subpoenas additionally request all email and other written communications between the Department of State and elections officials in every Pennsylvania county.

The subpoenas are a follow-up to lengthy demand letters that a Trumpy state senator had previously sent three counties in an effort to investigate the 2020 election results. In some ways, this is an escalation. Senate officials indicated that the personal information from voters would be turned over to an unnamed private company that would proceed with the review. State Sen. Cris Dush (R), who’s leading the effort, declined to provide detail on which companies he is considering for the task.

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Dush told Democratic senators during questioning on Wednesday that the yet-to-be-identified private company would receive compensation from taxpayer dollars, according to Spotlight PA, which noted that top Senate officials did not provide a specific budget nor a spending ceiling for their review earlier this week.

Democrats, who have been critical of the GOP’s efforts, criticized the subpoenas and Republicans’ vetting of a private company to carry it out. Dush would not indicate the committee’s authority to issue the subpoenas. The Associated Press noted that state law bars the public release of some of the information requested in the subpoenas, such as driver’s license numbers and Social Security numbers. Democrats said they plan to take the issue to court, the AP reported.

State Sen. Anthony Williams (D) argued that turning over private voter information to an outside company “should be scary to all of us.”

“This should be seen as a betrayal of those who are here to represent you,” Williams said, according to Spotlight PA.

The committee vote to pursue the information followed a previous (and unsuccessful) effort from the Trumpy state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R) to obtain even more information from three Pennsylvania counties.

In July, Mastriano sent letters to the counties, including Philadelphia, demanding pages of information on everything from ballot paper samples to “access or control of ALL routers, tabulators or combinations thereof (some routers are inside the tabulator case) in order to gain access to all the system logs.”

The counties balked: For one thing, the election equipment Mastriano wanted included sensitive security details that could compromise the machines — as happened to counties in Arizona and Colorado from similar efforts to push the narrative that the 2020 election was stolen.

Mastriano’s effort took another hit when Pennsylvania’s acting secretary of the commonwealth, Veronica Degraffenreid, ordered that machines in another county that had seen meddling from Mastriano, Fulton County, be replaced. A contractor that had had access to the machines, Wake TSI, had “no knowledge or expertise in election technology access” and subsequently compromised the system, Degraffenreid said.

As Mastriano pushed for compliance from the counties and threatened subpoenas, cracks in his façade emerged; he seemed to lack support from his fellow Republicans.

“Sen. Mastriano’s proposed audit has been handled very poorly,” Jeff Piccola, a former decades-long state legislator who’s now chair of the York County Republican Committee, told TPM last month. York was one of the counties from which Mastriano sought information.

Then, late last month, the state senate’s top Republican threw his weight behind a so-called “full forensic investigation” — though the definition of that term, as always, was unclear. But, President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R) took the reigns of the process away from Mastriano and put Dush in charge — because, Corman said, “We need someone to lead this effort who is more interested in real results than grandstanding at rallies.”

On Wednesday, defending the use of taxpayer money for the investigation, Corman said it would lend credibility to the effort.

“Republicans wouldn’t like it if George Soros was funding investigations, right?” he said.

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