PA Republican Election Clown Show Must End

clownImage by Jacqueline Macou
Op-Ed by State Rep. Peter Schweyer, D-Lehigh

If you own an iPhone, you probably just completed a security update to your system. (If you haven’t done so, you really ought to as there is new malware/virus that allows your phone to be hacked without your knowledge.)

Think about all the personal information on your phone: user ID and passwords for email and social media accounts, banking information, personal health records, even your facial scan or fingerprint. Think of how much damage could be caused to your credit, employment and privacy if that information were to be released.

Your personal data is in many places beyond your smartphone, from your doctor’s office to your garbage bin. Many folks don’t think about it, but your personal information is also in many government departments, including your county’s voter registration office.

Citizens should absolutely expect that their vote is private. And it should go without saying that personal voter information, including Social Security numbers, should be kept safe by voter registration offices and the Pennsylvania Department of State. This has always been a top priority.

But this week in a brazen, ultra-partisan vote, the Republicans in the state Senate voted to put millions of Pennsylvania citizens’ personal information at risk. Let me explain:

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As you know, former President Donald Trump and many of his minions are claiming that the 2020 election was “rigged.” Of course, the 2020 presidential election was a fair contest as only four credible cases of election fraud were confirmed across the entire state. (Side note: all four fraud cases were people trying to illegally vote for Donald Trump).

Pennsylvania Senate Republicans know that the election was fair but are hell-bent on continuing this charade for one reason: to keep the most strident Trump supporters on the hook for their next re-election. Many of these senators are worried about a primary opponent in their ultra-gerrymandered districts, so they maintain this act to keep MAGA-hat-wearing voters engaged.

Sensing that the issue was losing steam, the PA Senate GOP decided to double down and subpoena the election information for every person (about 7 million in total) who voted last year. They will then turn that information over to a third-party vendor. Yes, this actually happened at a recent committee meeting held in public in Harrisburg.

Included in that data dump will be voter ID numbers, dates of birth and partial Social Security numbers. Everything a scammer needs to open a credit card in your name will soon be in the hands of some third-party company, hand-picked by the same GOP lawmakers who associate with those who massed in Washington DC and violently attacked the US Capitol on Jan. 6.

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This exact plan was conceived and executed in Arizona, which gives us a chance to see what can happen here in Pennsylvania. Simply put, it isn’t good.

Back in June, the firm hired to run the Arizona “election audit” ended up sending voters’ private data to a random cabin in Montana without the slightest bit of security.

And just for good measure, I should point out that in Pennsylvania, as in Arizona, the cost of this will all be footed by you, the taxpayer. I’m sure all of us can think of better ways to use tax dollars.

If Pennsylvanians everywhere do not stand up and object to this, they should prepare for their personal information to end up in the hands of some unknown vendor who can do anything they want with it.

One would think that state lawmakers would be busy trying to PREVENT identity theft instead of opening the door for scammers and thieves to steal from you. But alas, they chose to keep MAGA-hat-wearing voters politically engaged over your security.

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In our state, where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were crafted, the GOP sideshow has been a complete embarrassment. But now that very circus is putting your personal data at risk, and enough is enough.

Make no mistake, as state representative I will join with other concerned legislators, Gov. Tom Wolf, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, and residents everywhere to stop your personal information from being handed over to MAGA political hacks. Whereas I sincerely hope that cooler heads will prevail, I’m prepared to use every tool necessary to fight for election integrity and for your privacy.

This clown show must end.

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