HARRISBURG, Penn. — A coalition of good government and civil rights advocates and eight voters filed a petition in state court to join the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s lawsuit against state Senate Republicans’ attempt to obtain private information about the commonwealth’s registered voters.
Common Cause Pennsylvania, the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, Make the Road Pennsylvania, and the voters say that they have an interest in the case because voters’ constitutional right to privacy will be compromised if the Senate Republicans are allowed to enforce their subpoena for voters’ private personal data.
Represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, ACLU National, and the law firm Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP, the advocates and voters filed a motion to intervene. If the motion is granted by the Commonwealth Court, they would be a party to the case, meaning that their attorneys would participate in all court proceedings to help protect all voters’ constitutional privacy rights.
The filing is in response to subpoenas issued by the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee to the Department of State on Sept. 15. The committee has demanded the names, addresses, dates of birth, driver’s license numbers, and partial Social Security numbers of every registered voter in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania has approximately 9 million registered voters.
“When Pennsylvanians register to vote, they have a reasonable expectation that the state will safeguard their personal data,” said Vic Walczak, legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “In fact, they have a right to privacy in their personal information under both the U.S. and Pennsylvania constitutions that protects their data. Senate leaders are potentially exposing nine million Pennsylvanians to increased likelihood of identity theft and financial fraud, while also creating dangerous new vulnerabilities in the state’s election systems.”
“These subpoenas are a frightening violation of voters’ privacy and an egregious abuse of power,” said Common Cause Executive Director Khalif Ali. “Some of the data subpoenaed is usually exempt from public release because of privacy concerns, and that information could be a goldmine for identity thieves. Pennsylvanians deserve to have their private information protected by the people they elected to office.”
After the committee voted, along partisan lines, to issue the subpoenas, Attorney General Josh Shapiro filed suit against Sen. Cris Dush, the chairman of the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee, and Sen. Jake Corman, the president pro tempore of the chamber. Shapiro is representing the commonwealth and Acting Secretary of State Veronica Degraffenreid.
In today’s filing, the advocates and voters cite a long history of Pennsylvania case law that establishes a state constitutional right to privacy, including in a person’s personal data. Dush, meanwhile, has not revealed how voters’ personal data will be protected or even the private company that will house and analyze the information. He has acknowledged that their review is patterned on the widely criticized review conducted in Arizona by contractor Cyber Ninjas, which had no experience with elections but did have ties to people seeking to set aside the November 2020 presidential election results based on refuted conspiracy theories.
“With this sham election review, Pennsylvania legislators are intentionally injecting discord into our election process and threatening the personal privacy of millions of voters,” said Terrie Griffin, president of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania. “Pennsylvania’s 2020 Election was executed safely and securely. This election review is a blatant attempt to weaken voters’ trust in our election system while exposing their sensitive data to possible exploitation and manipulation. Voters’ private data must be protected.”
The advocates and voters are asking the Commonwealth Court to declare the subpoenas invalid and unenforceable because they violate the constitutional privacy rights of Pennsylvania’s nine million registered voters.
More information about the case, Commonwealth v. Dush et al., including a copy of today’s filing, is available at aclupa.org/Dush.