Commentary

Why we’re fighting in Commonwealth Court to protect your vote | Opinion

As advocates for the right to vote, we know a scam when we see it. That’s why we’ll do what it takes to stop the GOP Senate’s ‘election review’ and protect voting rights for all

State Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, addresses a crowd of Trump supporters at the Pennsylvania state Capitol on Saturday, Nov. 7, the day the presidential race was called for Democrat Joe Biden. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

By Khalif Ali

We believe in free and fair elections. Every day, we work to protect elections and make sure voters’ voices can be heard, on behalf of 31,000 members in Pennsylvania and 1.5 million more nationwide.

That’s why we’re in court right now, fighting to defend voters’ privacy. Republicans on the state Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee want to hand voters’ personal information over to an out-of-state contractor with no expertise in election administration, and we’re working to prevent that.

We’ve been working to protect elections since 2004. And we’re quite certain that Senate Republicans’ “investigation” into our recent elections has nothing to do with the will of the voters.

We remember a year ago, when the senators behind this “review” tried to prevent Pennsylvania’s votes from being counted in the Electoral College.

State Sens.  Cris Dush, R-Jefferson; Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, and Judy Ward, R-Blair, were among the Republican lawmakes who sent a letter to our Congressional delegation, urging them to nullify Pennsylvania’s votes in the Electoral College.

Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, joined by Mastriano and Ward, along with Senate State Government Committee Chairperson David Argall, R-Schuylkill, and Sen. Scott Hutchinson, R-Venango, filed an amicus brief at the U.S. Supreme Court, as part of a lawsuit attempting to throw out votes in Pennsylvania and other battleground states, and overturn the 2020 elections.

Pa. court to hear arguments over releasing voter information as part of election investigation

There was a lot going on, back then, but we remember how eager they were to cancel out our votes.

The nation’s highest court denied that effort. Dozens of courts around the country rejected similar lawsuits. And finally – after an attack on the U.S. Capitol – Pennsylvania’s votes were counted by the Electoral College.

But now we’re back in court, fighting those same state senators, trying to protect voters again — because it’s what we do.

We know what’s been happening around the country. During a similar “election review” in Arizona, the private vendor allowed sensitive data to be driven to a remote cabin in Montana, with no oversight and no explanation why. Copies of proprietary voting system software, obtained by election-conspiracy theorists, were publicly released during a “symposium” challenging the 2020 presidential results. An attempted breach of confidential election data, from the office of a Republican elected official in Ohio, was just revealed.

The pattern is crystal clear: partisan elected officials and operatives have been willing to violate data confidentiality in order to cast doubt on the 2020 election results. And that’s why we’re in court fighting to protect the personal data of Pennsylvania’s voters.

Members of the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee showed themselves to be unworthy of voters’ trust when they tried to nullify the election results last year.

Yet they want the Department of State to turn over personal information that could be a goldmine for identity thieves. They’re planning to spend $270,000 of taxpayer money on an out-of-state private vendor to do who-knows-what with our private information. And they’re trying to convince people that this is somehow “legitimate legislative business” – when it’s not.

Unspool the rhetoric, and this is a partisan attack on voters’ confidence in our voting systems – and it could affect people’s willingness to participate in future elections. No one should be forced to risk disclosure of their personal information as a “cost” of registering to vote.

This is why we’re back in court, with oral arguments scheduled in Commonwealth Court on Dec. 15, a year after members of the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee tried to override the will of Pennsylvania’s voters.

We believe that our government “by the people” is stronger when more people participate. We believe in free and fair elections. We believe politicians should not be allowed to silence voters, either by nullifying our votes or by creating new barriers to the ballot box.

As advocates for the right to vote, we know a scam when we see it. That’s why we’ll do what it takes to stop these state senators’ “election review” and protect voting rights for all.

Khalif Ali is the executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania. He writes from Harrisburg.  Common Cause is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. 

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