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Pennsylvania Republicans seek trove of voter information in 2020 election review

President Joe Biden won the state by more than 80,000 votes.
People rally in support of counting all votes as the presidential election on Nov. 5, 2020, in Philadelphia.
People rally in support of counting all votes as the presidential election on Nov. 5, 2020, in Philadelphia.Chris McGrath / Getty Images file

Pennsylvania Senate Republicans on Wednesday authorized a series of broad subpoenas for personal information on voters as part of a burgeoning effort to review the results of the 2020 election.

The information subpoenaed from Gov. Tom Wolf's administration includes records on all Pennsylvania voters, including partial Social Security numbers, driver's license information, whether they voted by mail or in person and any changes in voter registration.

The Republican-controlled state Senate Intergovernmental Affairs Committee also subpoenaed all election guidance issued by the Pennsylvania secretary of the commonwealth to counties and all communications between the Department of State and county elections officials.

The subpoenas were approved by a 7-to-4, party-line vote.

Pennsylvania Democrats, including those on the committee, have decried the review as a waste of time and resources, pointing to the fact that more than 10 months after the election, no evidence of fraud or irregularities has been produced. President Joe Biden beat former President Donald Trump by more than 80,000 votes to win the state.

It's unclear what the committee's taxpayer-funded review is looking for. An initial hearing held last week focused on elections guidance provided by the Department of State to counties in the run-up to Election Day in November.

State Sen. Cris Dush, the Republican chairing the committee, said in a statement it was necessary to subpoena information from the Department of State because it did not participate in last week's hearing. The Department of State said it did not participate because of ongoing litigation involving Fulton County. A top Fulton County official testified before the panel Thursday.

On the voter information, Dush said it was necessary to gather a full understanding of the state's election system. A release from his office said the subpoenaed records will not include information on party affiliation, any information that could determine who a person voted for or "anything else that threatens voter secrecy or security."

In a statement, Wolf, a Democrat, called the investigation "a sham" and said state Republicans are continuing to perpetuate "the Big Lie" about last fall's results.

"Let’s be very clear, this information request is merely another step to undermine democracy, confidence in our elections and to capitulate to Donald Trump’s conspiracy theories about the 2020 election," he said. "It is a direct continuation of the same lies that resulted in the attack on the Capitol, and that have done so much to destabilize our political institutions over the ten months since last year’s election. As even members of the Pennsylvania Republican caucus have acknowledged, this charade has to stop."

"We continue to strongly oppose any effort which would compromise the security and integrity of election materials, infrastructure and the personal information of Pennsylvania voters, while undermining confidence in our elections by bringing an Arizona-style circus to Pennsylvania," he continued.

Pennsylvania conducted two post-election audits confirming the accuracy of last fall's count, and the results were certified. Republicans, who acknowledge they have not found evidence of fraud, say the ongoing review is necessary to shape election law and ease the concerns of their voters.

"Republican lawmakers may be the only people in the country who actually want to relive 2020," Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a Democrat running for Senate, said in a statement. "The election happened 10 months ago. Biden won. Get over it. Stop pissing away taxpayer money."

At Thursday's initial hearing, the lone witness testifying was Stuart Ulsh, chair of the Fulton County Election Board. Ulsh had authorized a third-party "audit" of his county's election results, which showed a substantial Trump win, at the request of a pro-Trump state senator late last year. During Thursday's hearing, Ulsh testified that the review found nothing wrong with how the 2020 election was conducted.