After this summer’s schoolyard shouting match between Republican State Sen. Doug Mastriano and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman over Mastriano’s attempt at a go-it-alone investigation of the 2020 election results, we all might have hoped that the debate had finally gone away for good. Alas, the Big Lie is back, and it’s more outlandish than ever.

This time, instead of simply undertaking a quixotic quest to find nonexistent voter fraud, Harrisburg Republicans have stumbled onto a tactic that would be dangerous even without its connection to a conspiracy that undermines democracy: Instead of requesting access to voting machines, election fraud truthers are now demanding the Social Security numbers, driver’s license information, and full names and addresses of every single Pennsylvania voter.

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This information, beyond the obvious risks to the privacy rights of individual voters, can be used by bad actors to initiate changes to their current voter registration status. According to experts, accessing private voter information like this actually increases the potential for fraud. Furthermore, the nonsensitive and relevant portions of this data are already available publicly, so there seems to be no practical need for this request.

The plan is part of the state GOP’s paradoxical pro-Trump makeover. Typically, when a presidential candidate loses an election, their influence over their political party wanes. But efforts like this underscore the lengths to which Republicans will go to mollify supporters of former President Donald Trump. It might also help Trump remain relevant as he plans another run for president in 2024, but some Republicans have begun to wonder whether these efforts might prevent the party from moving forward. At least one member of the GOP in Harrisburg, State Sen. Dan Laughlin, has begun to realize that the paranoia and fact-free turn into electoral fraud theatrics hurts the commonwealth and may also damage the long-term prospects of his party.

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The Big Lie poisons our politics and distracts us from the real problems in Pennsylvania. Thanks to the likes of Mastriano and Republican leaders, belief in the Big Lie, and doubt in our electoral system, is growing. Their refusal to acknowledge basic realities, done in order to avoid alienating the former president’s political base, is to blame for this phenomenon, not any lack of scrutiny during the election process itself.

Our Inquirer colleagues who report on Harrisburg have chosen not to call this process an “audit,” a prudent decision, and this board does not want to give the issue any more attention than it deserves. By demanding sensitive information from Pennsylvania voters, Republicans have made their obsession too dangerous to ignore.

This board applauds the efforts of Attorney General Josh Shapiro, State Sen. Tony Williams, and others who have pledged to go to the state Supreme Court if necessary to stop GOP attempts to violate the privacy of voters. We also recognize the efforts of lonely Republicans like Laughlin and Philadelphia’s own City Commissioner Al Schmidt, who have been honest about the election. Ultimately, though, the end of this fever dream will only come when Republican leaders stop lying to their constituents.