Much of the information being sought by Senate Republicans through subpoenas issued to the Department of State is already available as public records that are routinely used by political campaigns to target voters.
The Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee voted 7-4 on a party-line vote to issue subpoenas seeking a wide range of information about who voted last year along with what kind of direction the state provided to counties as they adjusted to cope with the unprecedented flood of mail-in votes as voters opted to cast their ballots without going to the polls during the COVID pandemic.
Senate Democrats have already said they plan to sue to stop the Department of State from having to comply with the subpoenas, particularly the request for personal information about voters.
But for $20 anyone can get the Department of State to provide almost all of the information about voting behavior being sought by the Senate Republicans through their subpoenas, the information provided by the Department of State shows.
The Department of State provides a list of voters, including the voter’s name, gender, date of birth, address, date registered to voter, status as an active or inactive voter, political affiliation, address, polling place, date the voter last voted, and history of elections in which the voter voted.
That report also specifies what method the voter used to vote — in person, by mail or by provisional ballot, said Ellen Lyon, a spokeswoman for the Department of State.
Campaigns use the information plan for how they will appeal to different kinds of voters and when they should be targeting voters, especially in light of the growth in voting by mail, said Christopher Nicholas, a campaign consultant who works with Republican candidates.
Nicholas and Mike Mikus, a campaign consultant who works with Democratic candidates, both said they haven’t gotten reports including partial Social Security numbers or driver’s license numbers, information that is being sought in one of the subpoenas approved by the Intergovernmental Operations Committee on Wednesday.
The state’s online voter registration data asks that applicants provide their driver’s license number if they have one and if they don’t they are asked to provide the last four digits of their Social Security number.
Having the applicant’s driver’s license number would allow the Department of State to verify the voters’ personal information by comparing it to the information provided to the Department of Transportation, Nicholas said.
Mikus said there’s no good reason to believe that Senate Republicans need that personal information though.
“Anybody who participated or cheered on the insurrection on January 6, should not be trusted with anybody’’s private information,” he said. “We have no idea how they’re going to use it because it’s clear that they don’t believe in democracy anymore,” he said. “All they’re trying to do is undermine our democratic system of government. You win some, you lose some. And, you know, they want to change the rules of the game where if they win, they win or if they lose it’s fraud,” Mikus said.
GOP had big 2020 election
Nicholas said that other than Trump’s loss, the 2020 election went very well for most Republican candidates.
“Republicans had a good Election Day in 2020,” he said. Republicans maintained their majority in the state Senate and increased their majority in the state House, as well as, “we won not one but two statewide row offices, one of which was beating an incumbent Democrat who outspent our candidate 10 to one.”
Based on those successes and the fact that Trump had narrowly won in 2016, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to believe that there was cheating involved in Trump’s 2020 loss, he said.
“If you believe that Trump could win here by 44,000 votes in 2016, why do you have trouble believing he could lose by 80,004 four years later? That’s not a big swing in the state with 8 million voters,” he said.
Nicholas said that he would support the Senate Republican review if its scope was limited to examining the moves made by the Department of State to change guidance ahead of the election in a way, he said, “tipped the scales” in favor of Democrats, particularly in the state Senate race in Allegheny County won by Democrat James Brewster.
“Are you doing a review of how often the Secretary of State’s office screwed up last year? I’m all for that,” he said.
In addition to the subpoenas focusing on voter information, the Intergovernmental Operations Committee is also seeking “all guidance issued to counties, as well as all communications between the Department of State and county election officials. All training materials, copies of all guidance and directives to counties are also included,” according to a statement released by Senate Republicans after the vote.
However, he said it’s not clear by their actions or comments what Senate Republicans plan to do with this review.
On the other hand, the state House conducted its election review in the spring and avoid re-litigating the 2020 election, opting instead to focus on crafting a proposed update to the election law that passed both chambers before getting vetoed by Gov. Tom Wolf due to his objection to a provision that would have expanded voter ID requirements.