States are debating changes to the contested voter list system

ATLANTA (AP) — Election officials from states signed up for a bipartisan effort to ensure accurate voter rolls met Friday to consider changes called for by some Republicans who are threatening to pull out because of conspiracy theories surrounding the system being targeted with the 2020 elections.

The Electronic Registration Information Center, known as ERIC, has a record in fighting voter fraud by identifying those who have died or moved between states. However, it has drawn suspicion even among conservatives after a series of online stories last year questioned its funding and purpose.

Earlier this month, Republican election officials from Florida, Missouri and West Virginia said they plan to withdraw from the group and join Louisiana and Alabama. Former President Donald Trump has taken to social media to urge every Republican-run state to leave, calling it a “horrible voter registration system” that is “bloating” Democrats and doing nothing to clean it up.

On Friday, representatives from the group’s member states met remotely to discuss possible changes being pushed by Republicans, including removing the requirement for members to send notices to those who are eligible but not eligible to vote. Currently, ERIC consists of 32 states and the District of Columbia, but that number will decrease once Alabama, Florida, Missouri and West Virginia officially retire later this year.

The resignations threatened to undermine a voluntary effort that for more than a decade has stood as the only national system that helps states identify voters who are ineligible to vote.

The system works by having states share certain data through secure channels, allowing election officials to identify and remove from voter rolls individuals who have died or moved to other states. ERIC also helps states identify and ultimately prosecute individuals voting in multiple states.

The system has been credited in Maryland with identifying around 66,000 potentially deceased voters and 778,000 people who may have moved out of the state since 2013. In Georgia, officials said nearly 100,000 voters who were no longer eligible to vote in the state were removed based on data provided by ERIC.

A conspiracy targeting the system claims billionaire philanthropist George Soros funded it. While the voter data-sharing system received initial funding from the non-partisan Pew Charitable Trusts, that money was separate from funding provided to Pew by a Soros-affiliated organization used for an independent effort, Shane Hamlin said , Executive Director of ERIC. Since then, the system has been financed by annual contributions from the member states.

It’s unclear whether even the desired changes will prevent other Republican-led states from leaving. Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose had threatened to withdraw if changes weren’t made, but Alaska election officials said they were considering their participation and had no timeline for a decision.

In Texas, state election officials have announced plans to conduct their own “Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program,” though it’s unclear how they intend to do so and how effective such an effort would be, especially when it affects only a handful of states. Meanwhile, legislation was introduced that would force Texas to pull out of ERIC.

Florida and Texas, with their combined 30.5 million active registered voters, would mean a significant loss in data sharing.

Because there is no national clearinghouse for voter registration, ERIC is the only interstate data exchange program. Launched in 2012 by seven states, it has been bipartisan from the start, with four of the founding states being Republican-led at the time.

In California, Kansas and New Hampshire, lawmakers have introduced bills that would allow their states to join him, according to the Voting Rights Lab, which tracks election legislation. New York is another populous state that is not part of the system.

Another change Republicans are seeking is the elimination of what they characterize as partisan influences within ERIC. They are targeting David Becker, a former Justice Department attorney who served in both the Clinton and Bush administrations. Becker, who helped develop the ERIC system at Pew, holds a non-voting seat on the board.

Some Republicans, including Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and former Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, have defended Becker in a public letter, branding attacks against him as disinformation and praising his work providing “bipartisan and bipartisan integrity solutions.” of the elections”.

Becker, who now heads the Center for Choice Innovation and Research, said this week he had informed ERIC that he would not accept a re-nomination to the board.

“The states that remain in the ERIC have stood up valiantly against disinformation and voting denial, and I hope they will continue to do so and support their local election officials who rely on the ERIC data as we head to 2024 headed for,” Becker said in a social media post this week.

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