(This article first appeared in Broad + Liberty.)

Update: Sometime on Monday after Broad + Liberty had requested comment from the owners of Vote.pa, the website was changed so that the top option was “Check your Registration” as opposed to “Register to Vote.” The Internet Archive contains numerous captures of the website that show Vote.pa was offering voter registration.

If you were to visit the website Vote.pa, you can enter your personal information, and the website will register you to vote with the Pennsylvania Department of State.

But don’t be surprised a few weeks later if the website is also sliding into your text messages urging you to vote for your local Democratic candidate, or maybe begins sending you even more political mailers than you already get each fall.

Vote.pa sounds very much like the real Pennsylvania Department of State website: vote.pa.gov. The website’s logo — a deep blue outline of Pennsylvania with a white “vote” inside the borders — looks thematically similar to the blue keystone with a white “PA” used in official state websites.

But tucked away at the bottom of the page is the note that the site is a project of Commonwealth Communications, a 501(c)4 political nonprofit run by J.J. Abbott, Governor Wolf’s former press secretary turned political operative.

The website’s privacy policy page (which studies say less than nine percent of website visitors actually read those disclaimers) makes clear: “We may use your personal information in connection with our political efforts and activities.” And of note, Vote.pa asks for a phone number, while the state website does not.

And, “We reserve the right to share your personal information to third parties as part of any potential business or asset sale…” — meaning the website is well within its rights to sell data collected from a visitor.

Broad + Liberty reached out to Abbott through emails publicized both on federal filings as well as on Commonwealth Communications’ website. Additionally, we reached out through a phone number listed on its Facebook page. The requests for comment were not returned or were not successful.

At least two Democratic state senators have promoted the website using their campaign-associated X accounts. Elected officials have greater leeway to promote various political messages through campaign-associated accounts when compared to “official” state accounts used to interact with the public.

Last week, Sen. Judy Schwank (Berks) told her followers “Please make sure your voter registration is up to date,” and then linked to Vote.pa in the post.

“I really want to earn your vote, but first we have to make sure you’re registered to cast it,” Sen. Jay Costa (Allegheny) said, while also linking to the website.

If the senators were tricked by the website — or alternately, if they approve of using the website to build a political database — they aren’t saying. Requests for comment to both were not returned.

Additionally, Gov. Josh Shapiro attended a voter registration event at Penn State Abington last Sunday, which was organized by two groups that promote Vote.pa on their own websites.

Shapiro can be seen on social media posts at the event hosted by The Voter Project and “Show Up Strong ‘24.” The latter group has an email address on its website that belongs to The Voter Project, so it is possible the two groups are the same. But both websites point people to Vote.pa to register.

A request for comment to Shapiro’s office was not returned.

Some Republican communications have pointed people to a web URL that is not the Department of State’s website: http://votespa.com. That URL, however, redirects to the Department of State.

“Third-party organizations should under no circumstances collect people’s personal information under the guise of ‘voter registration,’” House Appropriations Chairman Seth Grove said.  “House Bill 1300, a comprehensive and bipartisan election code update bill I authored last session, would have outlawed this practice. Unfortunately, Governor Wolf vetoed this bill because HB 1300 contained a Voter ID provision. Wolf, of course, changed his position a few weeks later, but his veto has left scores of unresolved election issues. Vote.pa is an obvious attempt to steal information from voters or potential voters who are very likely looking for the Department of State’s website. I believe all elected officials should call out these websites as bad actors and commit to sharing official government websites.”

The Department of State did not respond to a request for comment. Additionally, the Committee of Seventy, a nonprofit that, according to its website, “advances representative, ethical and effective government in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania,” also declined to comment.

The Voter Project is run by Kevin Mack who is a partner in Deliver Strategies, a Washington D.C.-based political consulting and political mailing firm. The Voter Project was a key player in the distribution of election grants in 2020 that later became controversial and have since been outlawed in Pennsylvania.

Not long after the 2020 election, Kevin Mack’s professional online bio said he “served as Lead Strategist for The Voter Project in Pennsylvania which was instrumental in signing up over 3.2 million people to vote by mail and leading the soft-side effort to win the swing state in 2020.” The biography is no longer available on Deliver Strategies’ website.

The Voter Project and Vote.pa also have a close professional relationship. According to Commonwealth Communications’ IRS 990 form for 2022, Commonwealth spent $1.1 million with Deliver Strategies for consulting.

Commonwealth Communications was seeded by PA Alliance Action, a 510(c)4 political nonprofit. According to PA Alliance Action’s most recent 990 filing with the IRS, the group gave approximately $2.6 million to Commonwealth Communications, with as much as $2 million of that money specifically earmarked as being available for the creation of Vote.pa.