By Nathan Layne
(Reuters) -Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania voted on Wednesday to subpoena the state's top election official in a review that joins widely criticized efforts in other battleground states aimed at fueling doubts about the 2020 election.
With a 7-to-4 vote along party lines, Republicans in the state Senate committee overseeing the review will issue a subpoena for information on some 7 million voters from Veronica Degraffenreid, acting head of the Department of State.
Democratic lawmakers, who are in the minority in the legislature, said they would challenge the subpoena in court.
The move advances what is expected to be an expansive review of Pennsylvania's election last November and comes amid similar efforts by Republicans in other key states to promote the baseless claim that Republican former President Donald Trump did not lose due to widespread voter fraud.
Trump's loss in Pennsylvania to President Joe Biden by nearly 81,000 votes was confirmed by multiple audits and certified more than nine months ago.
Trump's allies in Michigan and Wisconsin are also pursuing election probes, modeling their efforts after an ongoing audit in Arizona that a wide collection of election experts, Democrats and even some Republican officials have rejected as a partisan operation run by contractors without relevant expertise.
The broad array of information sought by the Pennsylvania subpoena includes the driver's license numbers, addresses, and last four digits of the Social Security numbers of all registered voters in the state, separated by county and with distinct lists for those who voted in person and by mail.
Cris Dush, the Republican chair of the Intergovernmental Operations committee overseeing the review, said at a hearing that the objective was to verify whether votes were cast by people who "exist" and to look into various allegations made about the election to see whether they have any foundation in fact.
The hearing became heated at points, with Dush cutting off the live video feed multiple times as one Democratic lawmaker questioned whether Republicans who attended the Jan. 6 rally in Washington would have access to information obtained via subpoena. The rally that day ended with a deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol to stop Biden's victory from being certified.
"We have every reason, every right to be concerned about what happens with these documents, with this information," said Vincent Hughes, a Democratic member of the committee. "You are asking for prolific personal information."
Dush said that unlike the audit in Arizona, Pennsylvania's review would be funded by taxpayers. The lawmaker, a Trump supporter who toured the Arizona operation in June, also promised he was "not going to be hiring political activists" to carry out the review. He said he was still vetting vendors.
Dush and Jake Corman, the top Republican in the state Senate, said the subpoenas and the broader review were not aimed at reversing Trump's loss, but rather finding any flaws in the state's voting systems to inform future legislative fixes.
"The legislature has no authority to overturn an election," said Corman, the chamber's president pro tempore.
Jay Costa, the Senate's minority leader, said Democrats would file a lawsuit on Friday in state court asserting that Republicans are belatedly attempting to contest the election, which by law must occur within 20 days of the election.
"This is clearly a separation of powers issue," Costa said.
"We cannot some 10, 11 months later come back and try and do another election contest. That is what the crux of this is about."
Pennsylvania's attorney general, Democrat Josh Shapiro, said in a statement that, while the bulk of the information requested is publicly available, his office would seek to protect the personal data, such as Social Security numbers, also being sought via subpoena.
(reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, ConnecticutEditing by Sonya Hepinstall and Jonathan Oatis)