Florida, West Virginia and Missouri withdrew on Monday from the Electronic Registration Information Center, the bipartisan multi-state partnership aimed at helping states maintain accurate voter rolls.
ERIC is a nonprofit system that helps participating states keep their registration rolls accurate and up to date by analyzing voter data and sharing reports with members, in order for them to update their voter rolls, remove ineligible voters and investigate potential voter fraud.
“ERIC will follow our Bylaws and Membership Agreement regarding any member’s request to resign membership,” Shane Hamlin, the group’s executive director, said in a statement in response to Monday’s withdrawals. We will continue our work on behalf of our remaining member states in improving the accuracy of America’s voter rolls and increasing access to voter registration for all eligible citizens.”
The three states join Alabama and Louisiana, who have previously retreated from the partnership.
The GOP-led states’ withdrawals are coming amid conspiracy theories that blame the system for voter fraud, despite there being no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 and 2022 elections.
Hamlin released an open letter last week addressing “recent misinformation spreading” about the group.
“ERIC is never connected to any state’s voter registration system. Members retain complete control over their voter rolls and they use the reports we provide in ways that comply with federal and state laws,” Hamlin stated.
According to Florida’s secretary of state, Monday’s decision was due to “concerns about data privacy and blatant partisanship.”
“As Secretary of State, I have an obligation to protect the personal information of Florida’s citizens, which the ERIC agreement requires us to share,” Republican Cord Byrd said in a news release. “Florida has tried to back reforms to increase protections, but these protections were refused. Therefore, we have lost confidence in ERIC.”
But when Florida first joined ERIC in 2019, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis touted the partnership as the “right thing to do” and claimed it would ensure “voter rolls are up-to-date and it will increase voter participation” in Florida elections.
More recently, the Republican governor expressed a positive note about the abilities of ERIC last August for his own political agenda, when he announced the arrest of 20 ex-felons for voting illegally in the 2020 election.
“If you actually vote in both places in a primary or in a general election, we have the ability to match those records through the ERIC system for most states now,” DeSantis said at the time.
Brad Ashwell, Florida state director of All Voting is Local, said DeSantis is “caving into pressure by election deniers” and the governor has had “a persistent pattern of reacting to conspiracy theorists and making expensive decisions that impact our election system in negative ways. ”
“Things are just either not an issue, that are a standard part of the election process or things that really aren’t a problem getting politicized and blown out of proportion into this large threat, and it’s not productive. It doesn’t help voters and will lead to additional costs,” Ashwell said.
In a letter addressed to Hamlin on Monday, Missouri Secretary of State John Ashcroft listed reasons for his decision claiming ERIC “refuses to require member states to participate in addressing multi-state voter fraud” and “unnecessarily restricts how Missouri utilizes data reports.”
The withdrawals follow an ERIC Board of Directors meeting last month in Washington, DC. West Virginia’s secretary of state’s office said in a news release that the meeting was to “to consider changes to the bylaws and membership agreement recommended by a bi-partisan working group of several member states.”
“After a last-second change to the agenda and disjointed discussions interrupted numerous times by non-voting, non-dues-paying individuals, the ERIC Board rejected critical working group recommended changes that would have prevented third-party influences from serving as non- state ex officio members to the ERIC Board of Directors,” the release stated.