The media is condemning officials in Republican-led states for withdrawing from a controversial data-sharing consortium that purports to help manage voter registration rolls and, not surprisingly, the news reports fail to tell the whole story. The system is known as the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) and it claims to be an efficient and cost-effective mechanism for states to maintain accurate voter rolls. ERIC is a nonprofit that was formed by leftist operatives in 2012 and, until recently, had more than 30 member states. It claims that its sole mission is assisting states to improve the accuracy of America’s voter rolls and increase access to voter registration for all eligible voters.
The reality is much different and Judicial Watch offers compelling information deliberately omitted by the media in a White Paper released this week. The document presents facts that directly contradict recent news coverage attacking Republican-led states—including Florida, West Virginia, and Missouri—for cutting ties with ERIC. The New York Times expresses fervent support for ERIC, writing that the nonprofit “has faced intensifying attacks from election deniers and right-wing media.” National Public Radio proclaims that “the far right is now running a disinformation campaign against one of the best tools that states have to detect and prevent voter fraud.” The headline of a recent Washington Post story reads: “Election deniers take aim at group that helps states maintain voter rolls.” The list of media critics is extensive and ranges from national outlets to small town newspapers.
The fact is that ERIC has been far more successful at identifying unregistered voters than duplicate or invalid registrations, according to research conducted by Judicial Watch. The organization reports identifying more than 60 million unregistered voters since 2012. That is not to say that it has not been effective at identifying many potentially improper or invalid voter registrations. However, certain aspects of its operations are incredibly dubious. For instance, ERIC was founded by the liberal Pew Charitable Trusts, potentially with funding that originated from leftist billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Foundations (OSF) network. Its founder, who remains influential within the organization, has a history of leftwing activism and unethical conduct. ERIC also shares the vast amount of sensitive personal data it receives from member states with another liberal nonprofit, the Center for Election Innovation and Research, a key player in the Zuckerbucks scandal in which private entities donated millions of dollars to fund government vote counts in the 2020 elections.
Records obtained by Judicial Watch show that ERIC is far more effective at swelling voter registration rolls than at keeping them clean. Our research also determined that the large amount of sensitive data provided to ERIC by member states and the organization’s role in maintaining voter rolls may violate a number of federal statutes. Among them are the Help America Vote Act, National Voter Registration Act and Driver’s Privacy Protection Act. The first statute provides states the authority and obligation to create and maintain electronic voter registration files but includes no provision that authorizes any state to outsource these obligations to a third party like ERIC. The outsourcing of voter registration list maintenance to ERIC may also violate the National Voter Registration Act, which protects from disclosure the identities of individuals who decline to register to vote. Finally, the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act specifically shields from disclosure the kind of data provided to ERIC by member states to conduct list maintenance.
These types of privacy concerns were among the reasons Florida officials recently severed ties with ERIC. “Withdrawing from ERIC will ensure the data privacy of Florida voters is protected,” according to an announcement issued by the Florida Department of State this week. In the press release Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd explains that he has an obligation to protect the personal information of Florida’s citizens, which ERIC requires the state to share. “Florida has tried to back reforms to increase protections, but these protections were refused,” Byrd said. “Therefore, we have lost confidence in ERIC.” Missouri Secretary of State John Ashcroft reveals that ERIC “allows for a hyper-partisan individual to be an ex-officio non-voting member on its governance board.” He also opposes ERIC’s focus on adding names to voter rolls by requiring a solicitation to individuals who already had an opportunity to register and made the conscious decision not to.