HARRISBURG - Eight voters and three community organizations took their argument to Commonwealth Court today in their effort to join a lawsuit challenging a subpoena issued by a state Senate committee to the Department of State seeking the personally identifying information of the approximately nine million registered voters in Pennsylvania.
The motion to intervene in the commonwealth’s lawsuit against two state senators and the committee was filed by eight voters and Common Cause Pennsylvania, the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, and Make the Road Pennsylvania. The voters and advocates are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, and the law firm Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP.
If granted by Commonwealth Court Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt, the voters and advocates would become parties to the case, and their attorneys would be permitted to participate in court proceedings. They argue that their motion should be granted because the voters and the organizations’ members would be harmed and their constitutional right to privacy would be compromised if the department is forced to comply with the subpoena. They also argue that the other parties do not adequately represent their interests.
The following can be attributed to Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania:
“The law is clear that Pennsylvanians have a right to privacy that goes well beyond the structure of a person’s home. It encompasses their private personal information, including data that the senators are trying to obtain. The voters we represent have a direct interest in this case because it’s their information that will be disclosed if the subpoena stands. While the commonwealth is making a good faith effort to stop the subpoena, its interests are not the same as those of our clients. Our clients are the ones who will be harmed unless the courts block the release of this data.”
The following can be attributed to Roberta Winters, who is one of the voters seeking to intervene in the case. Ms. Winters is a registered voter from Delaware County and has twice been a victim of data breaches. She has also been the victim of identity theft, which led to her and her husband’s financial accounts being zeroed out by the perpetrator:
“I have learned the hard way about the reality of data breaches and identity theft. Those experiences were unsettling and difficult. Voters’ personal information shouldn’t simply be handed over to anyone who raises questions about our elections. I expect the courts to protect our right to privacy and think that we should be in this lawsuit to make sure that our interests are protected.”
The following can be attributed to Diana Robinson, civic engagement director of Make The Road Pennsylvania:
“Voting is the foundation of democracy. It is how our communities build power and representation. Make the Road PA encourages eligible voters to exercise this right every year. When voters give their private personal information in order to register to vote, they expect that information to stay private and be protected. This lawsuit is important to our communities because they have a right to vote and a right to privacy. If the subpoena is upheld, voters essentially would have to choose between these two constitutional rights, and we intend to stand up for the voters of Pennsylvania.”
The following can be attributed to Khalif Ali, executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania:
“Pennsylvanians should be able to vote without worrying about whether our private personal information is going to be disclosed to politicians or some unknown, third-party vendor. So far this year, there have already been about 1,300 private-sector data breaches in the U.S. affecting almost 300 million people, and we do not want to be next. Common Cause Pennsylvania is concerned that this will have a chilling effect on people’s willingness to become registered to vote. Choosing between the right to vote and the chance of identity theft – that’s a choice no Pennsylvanian should ever have to make.”
The following can be attributed to Terrie Griffin, president of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania:
“As an organization dedicated to providing voters with trusted, nonpartisan election information, the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania must put more time, money and effort into helping voters overcome the confusion and concerns caused by this election review. The League and our partners will continue to raise the interests of voters when their privacy becomes politicized.”
More information about this case is available at aclupa.org/Dush.