The Lead

Pa. Senate Democrats ask for courts to push back subpoena deadline, block hiring of vendor for GOP election review

By: - September 23, 2021 10:51 am

(Image AdobeStock via The Philadelphia Gay News)

*This story was updated with comment from Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman’s office at 12:30 p.m. 9/23/20.

Building on a challenge they filed last week, Pennsylvania Senate Democrats have asked a state appellate court to extend the deadline for Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration to answer to 17 subpoenas requesting identifying information on all 9 million registered Pennsylvania voters.

The request, filed in Commonwealth Court on Thursday, asks for judges to push back the Oct. 1 deadline for a response by an undetermined amount of time. 

Senate Democrats also asked for the court to block the Republican-controlled Senate from hiring a third-party vendor to process the requested data until their lawsuit is resolved.

Senate Democrats’ request ensures “that no protected information of any Pennsylvania resident is exposed before a final determination regarding the illegitimacy” of the subpoenas, and prevents Senate Republicans from “hastily and irreversibly expending taxpayer money on an effort that is wasteful, invasive and illegal,” the filing reads.

To kick off election investigation, Pa. Senate GOP subpoenas voters’ social security numbers

On Sept. 15, the Republican-controlled Senate approved the subpoenas to start a legislative investigation of the 2020 election. 

The subpoenas call for the Department of State to hand over voters drivers’ licenses and partial social security numbers, along with such public information as addresses and voting histories.

The information, according to Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee Chairperson Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, will be handed over to a private, third-party vendor who will be charged with determining “the validity of people who have voted, whether or not they exist.”

The investigation is part of a national effort by former Republican President Donald Trump to invalidate his reelection loss by making false claims of election fraud that have been debunked by federal judges, local election officials, and his own attorney general.

The committee approved the subpoenas in a party line vote. 

Pa. Senate Democrats file suit to block GOP subpoenas in 2020 election investigation

But in a lawsuit filed last Friday, Senate Democrats claimed that the subpoenas violate the state constitution by disregarding the separation of powers, and will unlawfully jeopardize Pennsylvania voters’ private information.

In an email, Jason Thompson, spokesperson for Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, said that Senate Republicans “look forward to this litigation being resolved quickly and reaffirming the Senate’s clear legal authority to provide oversight of our election process in Pennsylvania.”

Senate Democrats legal challenge is the first to Republicans efforts, but may not be the last. Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro has frequently issued legal threats on social media and in national media interviews.

“As for my office, we have a lot of legal options at our disposal,” Shapiro told NPR this week. “We have a very strong winning record when it comes to protecting the will of the people and protecting the sanctity of the vote.”

Both Senate Republican and Democrats legal efforts will be paid for with taxpayer money.

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Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is a former senior reporter with Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Before working with the Capital-Star he covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter.