Andrey Popov, depositphotos
On Thursday, the Texas secretary of state submitted an exit notice to the Eric Voter Rolls System, notifying the organization that as of October it will not be participating.
The witdrawal from the program comes after Republican leaders pushed legislation to stop using the Electronic Registration Information Center, also known as ERIC, which allows states to share data about their voter rolls. Currently 27 states use the program but Texas will be the ninth state to abandon the program.
ERIC has been a controversial program that critics argue is dangerous due to privacy concerns and confidentiality of voter information. Some have even accused the program of being run by left-wing activists attempting to give Democrats the advantage, that receive funding from Democrat megadonor George Soros and that the program shares it’s data with outside groups.
So far Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, West Virginia, Missouri, Ohio, Iowa and Virginia have left ERIC and Texas will be come the ninth state to abandon the system this October.
Louisiana opted out of the system last year “amid concerns raised by citizens, government watchdog organizations and media reports about potential questionable funding sources and that possibly partisan actors may have access to ERIC network data for political purposes, potentially undermining voter confidence,” according to a news release from Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin.
Several states have been complaining about this organizations push to help register new voters, it’s rules that make it difficult to change the bylaws and have claimed that ERIC has expanded way beyond its initial intent.
In 2018, when Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft joined ERIC, he went into it confident that the state would have more credible and fairer elections, due to the organizations efforts to go after multistate voter fraud. That optimism soon grew to concern over the organizaton’s mandate that state reach out to residents who are not registered voters. Ashcroft claimed it was “a waste of money” and could be viewed as partisian, Governing as reported.
“I’m harassing people that already said, ‘No,'” he said in an interview with Stateline. “Why am I involved with that? I’ll make it easy to register and if there are problems with that system I’ll listen, and we’ll improve it.”
Ashcroft claimed he argued for months for systemic changes to ERIC, including advocating for the removal of a “hyperpartisan individual” on the organization’s board.
On May 11th, Virginia Elections Commisonner Susan Beals wrote a letter to ERIC stating “”In short, ERIC’s mandate has expanded beyond that of its initial intent — to improve the accuracy of voter rolls.”
Beals 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.
Beals is also concerned about the “increasing and uncertain costs” associated with other states leaving. ERIC is funded by member states’ fees. Fewer states in the program may mean that the states that choose to stay could end up having to pay signficantly more towards the program.
Texas likely won’t be the last state to withdraw. The legislatures in Alaska and Wisconsin are considering legislation to withdraw from ERIC as well. Republican lawmakers in North Carolina and Oklahoma have also proposed legislation that would prevent their states from joining ERIC.
Kentucky, Secretary of State Michael Adams, a Republican, said he is exploring his state’s options, Fox News has reported.
“Even if ERIC were hunky-dory, I still need to find ways to get information from 30-plus states that aren’t in ERIC,” Adams said.
While, Republicans have largely been at the forefront in the push to move away from ERIC, Democrat lawmakers are starting to get skeptical over the program as well.
New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, was approached by Ohio officials to discuss a data-sharing agreement and she claimed that “I am very interested in the longevity of ERIC because [of] the concept of doing state-by-state agreements, [but] it’s just a mess” she said.
Multiple Democrat officials have said they are not interested in alternatives to ERIC and have expressed hope of larger states like California and New York joining the program, which are currently not part of ERIC, Fox News has reported.
“I’m committed to ERIC, I believe in it,” Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said earlier this month, before Texas announced its plans to leave. “There have been a lot of attempts in the past to create what ERIC created effectively, and those attempts failed.”
According to the Texas secretary of state’s resignation letter, “the state’s exit will be effective in three months, in accordance with the program’s bylaws. By then, a law approved by the Texas Legislature this session, authored by Republican state Sen. Bryan Hughes, will have gone into effect. That legislation directs the secretary of state to build its own version of a multistate cross-check program or to find a “private sector provider” with a cost that won’t exceed $100,000,” Texas Tribune has reported.
Texas law does require that Texas participate in some kind of a multi-state data-sharing program to clean its voter rolls, which is what led to it joining ERIC in 2020, according to the Texas Tribune. So far, there isn’t an alternative to ERIC, which means that Texas will have until October to find an acceptable substitute or change it’s laws so that the state isn’t in violation.
Texas is a state that does update it’s voter rolls reguarly. Last year, the program helped the state to identify 100,000 in-state duplicate voters and another 100,000 duplicates of people who have moved in or out of the state, according to the Texas Tribune.
Katya Ehresman, voting rights program manager at Common Cause, Texas, isn’t happy about the decision to leave the program.
“Withdrawing Texas from ERIC early and without a tested alternative is a dangerous and unnecessary distraction from what our state’s chief elections officer should be doing: making it easier to exercise our right to vote. Deploying partisan tactics like this only stands to scare people away from the ballot box and doesn’t do anything to strengthen the security of our state’s elections.
Today’s action is exacerbated by the fact that Texas remains one of just seven states living behind the times without electronic voter registration options.
Manually entering handwritten forms across 254 counties to update voter rolls isn’t a flawless process, and ERIC has been instrumental in addressing involuntary errors. Without it, we are missing out on a necessary and useful check to ensure our voter rolls remain accurate. With a major mayoral election slated for November in Houston, we are sounding the alarm on how this will affect our voters, our poll workers, and our election writ large.”