September 17, 2021
The recent party-line vote by the Pennsylvania Senate’s Intergovernmental Operations Committee to subpoena a litany of election-related records is the latest misguided, wasteful and harmful action taken by some of our elected officials to address the frustrations of one candidate who failed to win their race in the 2020 General Election.
After a combined 12 public hearings between two legislative committees and testimony from 34 election officials from Pennsylvania and other states, and 26 experts and various advocates, the scope of legitimate issues that need to be addressed in the state’s election law and infrastructure could not be more clear. Some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have responded, drafting legislation that should be part of a serious discussion. Others, however, have ignored the voluminous feedback provided to the General Assembly, including our county election officials across the Commonwealth who are pleading for help.
We understand that some number of Pennsylvanians have concerns about our voting procedures—and that the 2020 elections were the most challenging in modern history—but the thrust of these concerns comes not from the real challenges we have in election administration but from disinformation spread on cable television, on social media and directly from former President Donald Trump and his allies. Never in the Committee of Seventy’s 117-year history have we seen a debate over election issues so untethered from widely available evidence and the facts.
Even the bulk of the information in the subpoena issued this week consists of voter registration and participation records that are publicly available. We encourage interested parties to request a copy of the Voter File from the Department of State; the processing fee is $20. Not included in the Voter File, however, but requested by state Senators, are partial Social Security and drivers’ license numbers of at least nine million Pennsylvanians, which is to be shared with an as-yet undetermined outside vendor. Now our politics are threatening not only our trust in elections and election officials but our personal information.
We urge those civic, community and business leaders in every corner of the Commonwealth to contact their lawmakers in Harrisburg. With COVID infections persisting, businesses struggling and Pennsylvanians fighting to support their families, there is no time for distractions. We need our elected officials to do the real work.
The Committee of Seventy is a nonpartisan civic leadership organization that advances representative, ethical and effective government in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania through citizen engagement and public policy advocacy.