The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled on Jan. 11 that state Attorney General Josh Shapiro and fellow Democrats in the General Assembly cannot block the Republican majority on the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee from reviewing voter information.
The committee needs the information so that Envoy Sage, an Iowa-based consulting and research firm, can review the results from the 2020 general and 2021 primary elections.
The Department of State voluntarily gave some voter information but withheld critical items, including each voter’s partial Social Security number and driver’s license number.
The committee’s Republicans contend that Envoy Sage cannot audit the election without Social Security and driver’s license information, because these alone can authenticate a voter’s identity.
Republicans had good standing before the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, which hears appeals for the state’s administrative and public law cases, based on previous cases.
The State Department voluntarily gave Social Security and driver’s license numbers to the League of Women Voters, a private organization, in 2012 and to the office of the auditor general for investigations.
Shapiro and the legislature’s Democrats argued that sharing the information could lead to fraud or identity theft and that the Republicans do not have a legislative purpose for obtaining the information.
The court countered that the State Department and Democrats did not provide “a clear legal right to quash the subpoena on the theory that it furthers no legitimate legislative purpose.”
They added that Envoy Sage does not have experience with election audits and does not have proper safeguards to protect each voter’s information.
The court admitted, however, that “there is a substantial factual question surrounding the federal protection requirements and the capability of the Senate Committee’s contracted vendor, Envoy Sage, LLC, to protect the infrastructure information.”
This potential risk did not outweigh the Senate committee’s right to the voter information.
“Today’s ruling upholds the General Assembly’s clear legal and constitutional authority to provide oversight of our election system,” Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Bellefonte, said.
“The Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee is conducting this review in a way that is transparent, fair and legally sound, and I am thankful this ruling completely validates our thoughtful approach to this deeply contentious issue,” he said.