In a move that highlights the growing partisan divide on election integrity, nine Republican-controlled states have chosen to sever ties with the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a multistate consortium created in 2012 to help states improve the accuracy of voter rolls, increase access to voter registration, reduce election costs, and enhance efficiencies.
The states—Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Louisiana—cited concerns over privacy and transparency as their reasons for withdrawing from ERIC but that appears unlikely since they are all jurisdictions where Republicans have sought to reinforce false claims about the 2020 election and cast doubt on American democracy.
ERIC, founded in 2012, was designed to address a common concern shared by legislators across the political spectrum—maintaining clean voter rolls.
Unlike other election-related issues that have been contentious, such as voter ID requirements or Election Day registration, ERIC’s membership had not been subject to partisan divisions until recent times.
However, a wave of resignations from eight Republican-controlled states has reduced ERIC’s membership from 33 states plus Washington, D.C., in 2022 to a projected 25 states plus D.C. once the resignations take effect.
Additional resignations are anticipated.
One of the fundamental problems that ERIC aims to solve is the coordination challenge posed by a national electorate and local election administration.
“We have a national electorate but local election administration,” explains Michael Morse, an assistant professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, who has extensively studied ERIC.
However, the recent resignations seem to be driven by a broader political context, particularly that the organization can discredit lies about the integrity of the 2020 election that have been raised by Republicans, who are stressing the foundation of American democracy.
Former President Donald Trump’s persistent claims of victory, despite his resounding defeat by President Joe Biden, have significantly impacted Republican voter confidence.
These claims, which have been widely debunked, have served to undermine trust in the electoral process.
Independent entities like ERIC provide unbiased evidence that refutes baseless claims of election fraud. Consequently, the withdrawal of partisan officials in states that have failed to substantiate such claims or cast legitimate doubt on the election outcome is perceived by critics as an attempt to evade scrutiny and potentially engage in misconduct.
The people who administer U.S. elections – from poll workers and ballot counters to county clerks and secretaries of state – have endured terroristic threats from Trump supporters, inspired by the former President’s false assertions of widespread fraud in the 2020 vote.
Reuters chronicled this campaign of intimidation in Campaign of Fear, a series of award-winning reports.
According to recent surveys, nearly half (48%) of GOP and Trump voters believe that instances of election officials intentionally miscounting votes in the 2020 election were reasonably or extremely widespread. In Arizona, this proportion is even higher, at approximately 57%.
The departure of these Republican-controlled states from ERIC underscores the widening partisan divide on election integrity. It raises concerns about the willingness to embrace evidence-based solutions and compromises necessary to ensure accurate voter rolls and reinforce public trust in the democratic process.
As the nation continues to grapple with these challenges, it is essential for policymakers and citizens alike to engage in constructive dialogue, relying on verified facts and transparent processes. Only through such collective efforts can the democratic principles of fairness, accuracy, and trust be upheld, fostering a more united and resilient electoral system that serves all Americans.
The issue of whether states should join or leave ERIC has become a hot topic in election administration. ERIC was initially established as a nonpartisan organization, with membership not being a partisan issue. However, the recent resignations from Republican-controlled states have raised questions about the political implications of participating in ERIC.
One of the primary problems ERIC addresses is the constant flux of voter rolls. People frequently move, change their addresses, reach voting age, become citizens, or lose their right to vote due to incarceration or death. ERIC serves as a coordination tool to help states keep up with these changes and maintain accurate voter lists.
Maintaining clean voter rolls is crucial for ensuring fair elections and reducing the perception of fraud. Inaccurate voter lists can lead to double voting, even though it is a rare occurrence. ERIC helps identify instances of double voting by comparing voter records across state lines. Sharing data across states is necessary to detect violations of federal law that prohibit double voting in the same election.
While ERIC has been successful in improving the accuracy of voter rolls, concerns have arisen regarding its outreach efforts and transparency. ERIC’s mission includes increasing access to voter registration for all eligible citizens, which some critics claim may be targeted to benefit Democratic-leaning demographics. However, there is no evidence to suggest any political bias in ERIC’s mission or processes.
Transparency is another concern, as ERIC uses data from motor vehicle bureaus to supplement voter files. This use of confidential data from motor vehicle records raises privacy issues and conflicts with transparency requirements. Many states had to address data-sharing restrictions when joining ERIC.