States abandon access to shared voter registration data
As states gear up to leave the Electronic Registration Information Center, few have specific plans in place to maintain accurate voter rolls on their own.
Since 2012, the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) has helped participating states maintain accurate voter rolls by comparing their voter registration and motor vehicle department data for irregularities.
ERIC’s data matching software can identify data that impacts election offices, including when a resident has moved, died or even committed voter fraud such as intentionally casting a ballot in more than one state, according to the organization’s website.
“Maintaining voter rolls is a labor intensive and costly process,” Matt Germer, a resident elections fellow for the Governance Program at think tank R Street Institute, said in an email. “ERIC helps to flag potential out-of-date voter registrations, allowing election administrators to use their funding more efficiently.”
But some states have recently announced their departure from ERIC, citing partisan efforts to control election outcomes and threats to election integrity. Louisiana was the first to step away when in January 2022 Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin announced the state would suspend its participation. Louisiana’s departure was finalized seven months later.
On March 6, Florida, West Virginia and Missouri jointly announced their withdrawal from ERIC amid data privacy concerns. Other states that have left or intend to leave ERIC include Alabama, Iowa, Ohio and Texas—which first joined ERIC just three years ago.
However, it remains unclear how those states will maintain accurate voter rolls on their own.
“The problem for the states leaving ERIC [comes] from a lack of data. As Florida leaves ERIC, for example, it will no longer have access to the voter registration data from neighboring states, such as Georgia, nor from states that are experiencing migration from Florida,” Germer said. “Without ERIC, Florida will continue to keep these voters on the voter rolls until they eventually become inactive and fall off, which may take years.”
Leaving ERIC doesn’t just hurt the exiting state, Germer said. “The remaining members of ERIC will no longer have access to Florida’s voter registration data, impacting the accuracy of the voter rolls of dozens of other states,” he added.
But Florida has prepared for its transition away from ERIC, according to External Affairs Director of the Department of State Mark Ard. The establishment of the Office of Elections Crimes and Security (OECS) in 2022 provides “the resources and ability to continue to investigate, review and make criminal referrals for instances of double voting,” Ard said in an email.
The office is charged with reviewing alleged election law violations, conducting preliminary investigations and referring violations to law enforcement agencies. Since its inception, OECS has referred 1,094 individuals who allegedly voted unlawfully in the 2020 general election and 70 individuals in the 2022 general election to law enforcement for criminal investigation, according to a January report.
The same report, however, reveals OECS used data provided by ERIC to inform the office’s investigations. For instance, ERIC data helped OECS to identify 1,177 individuals who appear to have voted both in Florida and another member state during one election.
Ard did not elaborate on which data sources Florida will use outside of ERIC. But the Florida Department of State and OECS partially relied on election fraud complaints via email or phone calls made to the voter fraud hotline, according to the report.
Data sharing with other non-ERIC states is another way Florida has verified voter roll information, the report stated, which Secretary of State Cord Byrd echoed in a March interview with far-right One America News. “The goal of joining ERIC was that we would have a clearinghouse for states to share information, but by pulling out, nothing stops us from continuing to share that information with sister states who value voter integrity,” he said.
For instance, Texas recently created a position to develop and manage an interstate voter registration crosscheck program that will compare voters, voter history and voter registration lists to identify individuals who have changed addresses, Secretary of State Jane Nelson announced last month.
Even if the few departing states created an alternate organization to ERIC, “the value of a shared database comes with wide participation,” Germer said. “Individual states can and should maintain their voter rolls using internal information—such as cross-referencing with death records or checking with agencies like the DMV—but by themselves they may struggle to know when residents move to another state.”
“There may be tech solutions available, but the tech is useless without data, including interstate data that can only be obtained through an organization like ERIC,” he said.
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