Why Republican-led states keep leaving a group that verifies voter rolls

Matt Vasilogambros | (TNS)

Eight Republican-led states this year left an interstate cooperative that seeks to maintain accurate voter registration rolls, and three more may join them — a move that election security experts say is fueled by conspiracy theories.

Earlier this month, Virginia’s top election official said the state would become the latest to stop participating in the Electronic Registration Information Center, commonly called ERIC, because of concerns over privacy and confidentiality of voter information, among a list of other reasons.

Other states with Republican-led legislatures may soon leave ERIC, including Alaska, Texas and Wisconsin, where lawmakers may propose or already have introduced legislation to leave the cooperative. Republican lawmakers in North Carolina and Oklahoma have also proposed legislation that would prevent their states from joining ERIC.

Election security experts worry the move is part of a larger trend away from nonpartisan election administration, potentially leading to inaccurate voter databases.

To prevent voter fraud, the nonprofit organization compares voter registration data from participating states with federal death and postal records to help states rid voter rolls of people who may have moved or died. Participating states also must send postcards to residents who are eligible to vote but are unregistered.

It’s a disturbing continuation of a trend we’ve seen of a breakdown of bipartisan consensus about good election administration. — Alice Clapman, Brennan Center for Justice

Until this year, ERIC was seen as one of the least controversial election programs in the country, with a mix of red and blue states participating and a mission to not only keep clean voter rolls (a common demand of Republican-led states) but also to encourage voter registration (a priority for Democrats).

But Republican attitudes toward the program changed over the past year with the rise of disinformation surrounding the country’s election systems, fueled by criticism from former President Donald Trump and his allies. Trump falsely claimed that ERIC “‘pumps the rolls’ for Democrats and does nothing to clean them up.”

The eight states that left the group this year have not entirely mimicked Trump’s language but have complained about its push to help register new voters and about rigid internal rules that make it difficult to change bylaws.

“In short, ERIC’s mandate has expanded beyond that of its initial intent — to improve the accuracy of voter rolls,” wrote Virginia Elections Commissioner Susan Beals in a May 11 letter to ERIC.

Beals, who was appointed by Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, said the state would seek information-sharing agreements with its neighboring states in an “apolitical fashion.” Virginia was one of seven founding members of ERIC when it launched in 2012, backed by then-Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican.

Another reason Beals cites for leaving ERIC is the “increasing and uncertain costs” associated with the departures of seven other states that have left the cooperative this year: Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio and West Virginia. Twenty-five other states are still in ERIC, which is funded by member states’ fees.

In a March …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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