Harrisburg – September 15, 2021 – Following today’s Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee hearing, of which had one agenda item- Consideration of a motion to authorize the issuance of subpoenas- Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa, Democratic Chair of the Intergovernmental Operations Committee, Anthony H. Williams, and committee members Vincent J. Hughes and Steve Santarsiero held a press conference to discuss legal action they will take to challenge Republican members’ call for confidential data from the Department of State, including a complete list containing the names, dates of birth, driver’s license numbers, and last four digits of social security numbers of all registered voters within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as of May 1, 2021.
Lawsuits filed by Senate Democrats will be in direct response to Senate Republicans’ far-reaching subpoena, which they argue is a violation of the separation of powers. The forthcoming lawsuit will ask the courts to confirm that the Senate is not the place to conduct an untimely election contest or to undertake an audit that will force election officials to violate federal law and invade the privacy of each and every Pennsylvania voter. The Senate does not have authority to perform either. Senate Democrats will also request to have courts protect the secrecy of ballots, which is a constitutional protection in Pennsylvania, as well as additional personal voter information Senate Republicans are seeking. The committee members also plan to file an injunction against the subpoena, asking the court to hold those until their lawsuit is heard in court.
“Facts are facts, and the law is non-negotiable. Unfortunately for Senate Republicans, those realities don’t bode well for them in this investigation. Despite their quest to engage in a partisan exercise that wastes taxpayer resources and only seeks to prove a Big Lie about an election that has already been audited and certified, our goal is not to make this a Democrat vs. Republican fight. Our goal is to follow the law at both the state and federal level,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa. “I really regret to see Senator Corman commit more and more to this path that he himself admitted was wrong back in 2020. We must not sacrifice the most fundamental principal of our democracy-fair and equal elections- so that some may pursue political gain by perpetuating the Big Lie that this election was stolen.”
Senator Dush confirmed he has yet to determine who will handle the millions of records he’s requesting or how the investigation will use the copious amounts of data. He did confirm the investigation would be paid for with taxpayer money, yet he is unwilling to share publicly about vendors he’s vetting. Decisions related to the investigation will be made with his partisan “team” of legal counsel and potentially with GOP colleagues. If millions of personal records are subpoenaed from the Secretary of State, they will be held by Republican counsel, although no details were shared on how those records would stay secure against physical or digital breach. The hearing concluded with a 7-4 vote along party lines in favor of the subpoena, with two Republican members who actively tried to overturn the 2020 election results voting “yes”.
“What transpired at our first hearing should concern everyone involved,” said Senate Democratic Whip and ranking member of the Intergovernmental Operations Committee, Anthony H. Williams. “And if the first hearing wasn’t enough to warrant concern, consider now Senate Republicans are asking for personal information of millions of people across the commonwealth with no plan for how they will keep the data secure, how they will use it to investigate their conspiracy theory, or who will be responsible for cleaning up the mess if there is a data breach. So, while Senate Republicans play this dangerous game with our democracy and the personal information of Pennsylvanians, Senate Democrats will stay on the side of the law and truth. I hope our colleagues eventually join us.”
“We do not need personal information to draft legislation. That fact, along with so many others clearly shows this so-called investigation represents corruption at every turn,” added Senator Vincent Hughes, who is a committee member and Democratic Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “We’ve had one witness in this investigation so far. He was presented as a concerned county official, but during his testimony we learned he’d been in contact with elected officials in 2020 trying to overturn fair and credible election results. Now our committee is issuing subpoenas for personal voter records related to an election that has been audited several times and certified. I question what Senate Republicans hope the outcome of all this is. Where there’s smoke there’s fire, and all I’ve seen so far is a lot of smoke that leads back to one Big Lie from a former President who lost in Pennsylvania. The evidence of Republican attempts to overturn the results of a legitimate election is growing.”
Less than a week ago, Republican Chair of the Intergovernmental Operation Committee, Senator Chris Dush, convened a hearing with just one witness: Commissioner and Chair of the Fulton County Board of Election Stuart Ulsh. During his testimony it was revealed Commissioner Ulsh emailed Senator Judy Ward and Representative Jesse Topper from his private email account on November 9, 2020, stating, “The people are asking who all is in this fight with Senator Mastriano. It couldn’t hurt the Trump campaign if our state Representatives all got involved. If we don’t stop this election problems next will be worse. If there were 109 house and 27 senate with Senator Mastriano it would be a big help. The people need this. Respect their vote.”
“The Republicans’ subpoena is a brazen attempt to use public taxpayer dollars to fund a partisan effort to contest the 2020 election,” said committee member and ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Senator Steve Santarsiero. “This is absolutely an attack on the freedom to vote, where the confidential, personal information of 7 million Pennsylvanians is being given to private entities that are accountable to no one other than the Senate Republican caucus. It was revealed today that it is possible one or more of these vendors could have been in the employ of either Donald Trump or someone associated with his campaign or supporting his campaign. This lack of transparency and accountability should worry every Pennsylvanian and every American. As to the information that came out of last week’s hearing, we are calling on U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate the activities that unfolded in Fulton County in December of 2020, which apparently involved granting partisan consultant access to sensitive voter information without a public vote. These activities need to be investigated for potential violations of federal law.”