Subpoenas: Latest voter disincentive

York Dispatch editorial board

Would you entrust personal information to a serial liar?


Then you should be livid with state Republican lawmakers, who last week issued subpoenas for a huge cache of personal information on Pennsylvania’s 9 million or so registered voters.

Technically, it was the Republican majority of state’s Intergovernmental Operations Committee that subpoenaed Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration for the records. But they have the backing of the Senate’s top Republican, President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, who went all in last week on what he called a “full forensic investigation” of the state’s 2020 presidential election results.

He joins fellow state Sens. Chris Dush, who chairs the Intergovernmental Operations Committee, and Doug Mastriano, both whom have long peddled the fiction that voting irregularities cost former President Donald Trump reelection.

Frankly, this is getting tiresome. It’s been 10 months since the election and neither Trump, nor Mastriano, nor anyone can point to a credible example of the type of fraud they insist changed the outcome of an election lost by more than 70 electoral votes and some 7 million popular votes. (President Joe Biden carried Pennsylvania by about 80,000 votes, roughly double Trump’s 2016 margin of victory.)

The Pennsylvania Capitol is shown in Harrisburg, Pa., Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021. Republicans in Pennsylvania's state Senate are preparing to test how far they can go in pursuing what the GOP calls a "forensic investigation" of last year's presidential election, as they help perpetuate baseless claims that Democrats cheated former President Donald Trump out of victory. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Still, Pennsylvania Republicans, cravenly bowing to Trump’s fantasies, insist their hunt for voting chicanery will require voters’ private information. And lots of it! Names, dates of birth, driver’s license numbers, last four digits of Social Security numbers, addresses and methods of voting for the millions who cast ballots in the May primary and the November general election. Some of this information is public but driver’s license and Social Security numbers are protected by law.

It should come as no surprise that state Republicans do not respect the sanctity of the voting booth since they’ve already demonstrated they don’t respect the voters themselves. Recall, nearly 60 state representatives urged the state’s congressional delegation to overturn Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes — which reflected the will of voters — and Mastriano wanted to throw out the state’s vote altogether in favor of simply naming electors favorable to Trump.

This is not a democracy-loving bunch. Nor, as their adherence to Trump’s “Big Lie” attests, do they embrace the truth.

For instance, Dush, Corman and others insist their continuing obsession with investigating 2020 election results has nothing to do with Trump. Rather, they claim, it’s to correct voting irregularities, which they have been vague or evasive in identifying.

The best Dush could do at an Intergovernmental Operations Committee hearing preceding the subpoenas was to say he has heard of sworn affidavits by people claiming they checked addresses “listed for a voter” and found a condemned building. There’s a solid basis to subpoena millions of voters: hearsay.

Let’s get serious. Subpoenaing private voter information is as intrusive as it is unnecessary, given there is no evidence of 2020 voting discrepancies. There is also no word on who Republicans will contract to conduct the investigation, how voters’ personal data will be protected, and where the money for this circus will come from.

Democrat Wolf minced no words in slamming the subpoenas, which he called, “merely another step to undermine democracy, confidence in our elections.”

That might be the point.

While Democrats in the state Senate have already sued to block the subpoena, even should a “full forensic investigation” move forward, the chances of anything other than a random typo or mis-filed ballot being uncovered are nil. That’s clear.

What’s less clear is the impact even an attempt at gathering personal information will have on voter participation going forward — particularly when added to relentless claims of voting irregularities, a raft of new voting restrictions and partisan redistricting efforts.  

Wholesale subpoenas and full-frontal forensics won’t change the election results of 2020, but they create yet another disincentive for the potential voters of 2024.