Two more Republican states abruptly quit interstate voter roll program
The exodus of GOP officials from the once uncontroversial group comes as some prominent Republicans — including former President Donald Trump — have publicly attacked it, falsely claiming it is a liberal plot to control county voters lists. Most departing states have not echoed Trump’s claims, instead citing disagreements over the organization’s governance, but ERIC’s defenders say their complaints are just a pretext to leave the organization.
But the bottom line is that these Republican-led states have turned on an organization they once hailed as a solution to curb voter fraud.
The states’ decision to leave the partnership came shortly after an ERIC board meeting on Friday, where member states voted on significant changes to the organization’s governance.
This meeting resolved a point of contention – the role of non-voting members within the organization – but deadlocked over disagreements over what members could do with data collected and distributed by ERIC.
Generally speaking, ERIC helps organizations maintain their voter rolls by publishing reports on voters who may have moved within the state or between member states, died, or potentially voted in two different states, requiring members perform list maintenance with this information. ERIC also produces data on people who may be eligible to register but have not, and asks states to contact these potential voters.
Some Republican election officials believe that this last requirement, in particular, is superfluous and a waste of resources. LaRose had previously proposed amending the ERIC to allow states to choose to use ERIC data “à la carte” – letting member states choose what they want to do with the data produced by the organization – and a proposed amend the organization’s bylaws to allow as this failed at Friday’s meeting. A second vote that would tie a requirement to contact potential eligible voters to a report that helps states detect cases of double voting — meaning states could choose to do both or neither — also failed.
Both proposals received a majority vote, with the latter having more support. But ERIC statutes require 80% of members to agree to make changes
Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate said Friday’s failed votes don’t “allow each member to do what’s best for their respective state.”
“Ultimately, the departure of several key states and today’s vote will impact ERIC’s ability to be an effective tool for the State of Iowa,” he said. . “My office will recommend resigning from our ERIC membership.”
Other states may follow. Alaska’s Chief Electoral Officer told a legislative hearing earlier this month that the state can leave the organization, while the Texas secretary of state has taken public steps to prepare her office for a pullout should the state pull out. (There is pending legislation in Texas do the same.)
A spokesperson for the Texas secretary of state did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday. A spokesperson for the office of Alaska’s lieutenant governor — the state’s chief election officer — had no immediate comment on Friday’s meeting.
Simon, the Minnesota Democrat, told POLITICO that he and other ERIC supporters reached out to Republican-led states on Friday afternoon to urge them to stay in the partnership and keep negotiating.
“I urge any state disappointed with the outcome of today’s board meeting to hit the pause button,” he said in an interview.
Not all Republican-led states are looking to leave. Georgian Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has been a strong supporter of ERIC over the past month, and his office projected hope that states would remain in the organization after a vote at Friday’s meeting that scrapped the non-voting positions on the group’s board of directors, another flashpoint.
“Hopefully this will allow states to stick around and help maintain clean voter rolls across the country,” tweeted Gabriel Sterling, a senior official in the Georgia Secretary of State’s office, shortly after the meeting.
Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, her state’s Republican election official, also voiced support for ERIC on Friday. “As a founding member, ERIC has served Utah and its member states well,” she said in a statement to POLITICO, calling for “a compromise between Republican and Democratic member states.”
“Hopefully we can find a way forward to retain and attract members,” she added.
Crucially, South Carolina — a state some members worried about after Friday’s meeting — said it has no plans to leave.
“South Carolina has no current plans to leave ERIC,” John Michael Catalano, spokesman for the South Carolina State Elections Commission, wrote in an email. “Despite its flaws, ERIC remains a valuable and (currently) irreplaceable tool that allows states to remove unqualified voters from voter rolls.”
Remaining members lamented departures from the organization, with several saying that a state leaving the ERIC makes the organization worse for everyone: “The more members that leave, the less valuable the organization is. and efficient,” noted Catalano.
And others lamented the departures as a bad sign for the culture of cooperation around the elections. Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, a Democrat, called ERIC’s work “technical and boring” but an important part of the “backbone” of the US election.
“What we see is the product of misinformation,” she said in an interview on Friday. “It made ERIC a lightning rod in some circles.”