HARRISBURG - Eight voters and three advocacy organizations stood up for the right to privacy of all nine million registered voters in Pennsylvania at a proceeding before the Commonwealth Court today in Harrisburg. The court heard oral arguments in three consolidated cases challenging subpoenas issued by a state Senate committee for personally identifying information of Pennsylvania’s voters, including one lawsuit in which the eight voters and three organizations intervened.
The information sought by the Pennsylvania Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee includes voters’ names, addresses, dates of birth, driver’s license numbers, and partial Social Security numbers. Keith Whitson of the law firm Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP presented the arguments of the voters and advocates who intervened in the case. They are also represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.
According to the intervenor petitioners, Senate leaders have failed to show a legitimate reason for obtaining the data or a compelling need required under law and that allowing them to get the information that they seek would be in conflict with both the state constitution and election law.
“Voters do not give up one right for another. The right to vote and the right to privacy are both fundamental and need protecting from the Senate committee’s fishing expedition,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “The committee also has failed to show that it can protect the data. If this personal information is released, every voter in Pennsylvania will be at risk of identity theft, financial fraud, and other vulnerabilities.”
The case the voters and advocates intervened in is Commonwealth v. Dush, in which the Department of State sued state senators Cris Dush and Jake Corman and the committee, to prevent the enforcement of the subpoena. The court heard the case “en banc,” meaning that a majority of Commonwealth Court judges heard the case and will participate in the court’s ruling.
The advocacy organizations who intervened in the case are Common Cause Pennsylvania, the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, and Make The Road Pennsylvania.
“Common Cause has run election protection programs since 2004 – that’s why we know an effort to harm voters when we see it,” said Common Cause Pennsylvania Executive Director Khalif Ali. “This sham review of our elections is coming from the same state senators who urged Congress to reject Pennsylvania’s electoral college votes, the same people who asked the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out our votes. This so-called ‘analysis’ is all about creating doubt about our elections and preventing voters’ voices from being heard.”
“Democracy is an agreement we make with each other. We agree that we will cooperate even when we disagree and that we will not turn on each other when we lose an election,” said Susan Gobreski, board director for government policy for the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania. “This case is about preserving the rights of voters to have a say, to have our votes and our privacy respected, and to act based on evidence, not unsubstantiated innuendo.”
The Senate Republicans announced last month that it has hired Envoy Sage, a private company based in Iowa, to conduct its review of voter data, despite previously pledging to wait until legal proceedings ended to hire a contractor. The company has no known experience in election administration or review.
"We have to ensure that voters feel that their information is safe and that they can practice their right to vote without fear of facing identity theft or fraud,” said Diana Robinson, civic engagement director of Make The Road Pennsylvania. “We want Pennsylvanians to be free to vote without barriers or restrictions."
More information about this case is available at aclupa.org/Dush.