Three Republican states announced this week that they would be terminating their membership with a prominent, multi-state consortium that shares voter rolls data to keep their lists up to date. The moves come amid unfounded rightwing conspiracies about the security and partisan leaning of the organization.
Florida, West Virginia and Missouri said this week that they are leaving the Electronic Registration Information Center (Eric), a group of roughly 30 states on both sides of the aisle that assist one another in voter roll maintenance. The group matches member states’ voter rolls to each other to flag registrations of duplicate voters or people who have moved or died. The more states that are involved, the more accurate Eric’s services can be.
In a statement announcing its decision on Monday, Florida’s Republican secretary of state, Cord Byrd, said he is withdrawing to protect the data privacy of state residents.
“As secretary of state, I have an obligation to protect the personal information of Florida’s citizens, which the Eric agreement requires us to share,” he said. “Florida has tried to back reforms to increase protections, but these protections were refused. Therefore, we have lost confidence in Eric.”
Earlier this year, Alabama and Louisiana also pulled out of Eric, citing similar concerns. Alabama’s new secretary of state has denied the results of the 2020 election and supported a lawsuit brought by Texas against four other states for election “irregularities” that allegedly caused Trump’s loss.
Eric has been supported by its member states, including many GOP-controlled states, since it launched in 2012 as a way to supplement the insufficient national voter registration database. It was not until last year, when rightwing conspiracy theories began to spread, that the organization began to be viewed as partisan and states began to question their membership.
Far-right groups and websites, which were already actively spreading election misinformation and sowing doubt in election administration, began describing Eric as left-leaning and falsely tied the organization to liberal billionaire George Soros. The rightwing website Gateway Pundit published a series of baseless blog posts claiming that Eric was a liberal plot to inflate voter rolls and that it could allow private voter data to become public.
Republican states have also begun to take issue with the governance of the organization. In his statement announcing West Virginia’s departure, the secretary of state, Mac Warner, said the Eric board of directors rejected recommended changes during a recent meeting which he claimed would have prevented partisan, non-state actors from having influence over the organization.
“It truly is a shame that an organization founded on the principle of nonpartisanship would allow the opportunity for partisanship to stray the organization from the equally important principle of upholding the public’s confidence,” he said.
Politico reported that the withdrawing secretaries of state also took issue with Eric’s requirement that state election officials contact eligible but unregistered voters at least every two years to see if they would like to register.
In his letter announcing Missouri’s withdrawal, the secretary of state, Jay Ashcroft, wrote that “Eric focuses on adding names to voters rolls by requiring a solicitation to individuals who already had an opportunity to register to vote and made the conscious decision not to be registered.”
Trump has called for more Republican states to withdraw, falsely claiming that Eric is inflating the rolls for Democrats.
Tammy Patrick, chief executive officer for programs with the Election Center, said that Eric had benefited for more than a decade from state and local officials from both sides of the aisle working together to serve the electorate.
“The weaponizing of any election administration function is problematic – particularly when it is not based on factual evidence to appease a particular faction or is done under partisan pressures,” she said. “Voter list maintenance and registering voters in as efficient a manner as possible should not be viewed as partisan when done properly.”
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