Texas latest state to leave voter roll integrity group ERIC, amid concerns of partisanship, cost

Texas is one of nine states that have left ERIC since last year.

Published: July 28, 2023 11:11pm

Texas is the largest and most recent state to leave the nationwide election integrity group ERIC, amid such concerns as partisan influence, increasing costs and a failure to address voter fraud. 

The nonprofit, nonpartisan group, formally known as the Electronic Registration Information Center, was founded in 2012 and calls itself "the most effective tool available to help election officials maintain more accurate voter rolls and detect possible illegal voting." 

The membership-based group also says it helps states reach out to potentially eligible but not-yet-registered people with information on how to register to vote.

Texas' recent departure follows eight other GOP-led states – dropping ERIC's membership to just 25 states.

ERIC was founded by David Becker, who also founded the Center for Election Innovation & Research, which in 2020  received nearly $70 million from Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg's Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

CEIR claims the 2020 general election was "the most secure in American history." 

Other Republican secretaries of state are also purportedly either considering or in the process of leaving.

They have cited concerns such as partisan influence, a failure to address voter fraud in multiple states and making member states solicit voter registration information from people who had already chosen not to register to vote when given the opportunity. 

Texas sent a letter to ERIC on July 20 stating it would withdraw from the partnership in 91 days.

The move follows the Texas legislature in May passing a bill that gives the state the ability to create its own interstate program to maintain its voter rolls and that takes effect on Sept. 1. 

The increasing cost of membership also was a factor. 

"As fewer states participated in ERIC, the costs were set to increase," said a Texas secretary of state's office spokesperson. "Texas would be paying more for less data." 

The spokesperson also said the state has no immediate plans to join another system but continues to research options. Pierce added.

Texas joins Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia in leaving ERIC.

The partnership had 33 states and Washington, D.C., as members, until Louisiana first left last year.

Virginia was the state before Texas that said it will leave the partnership, which will occur in August. The state was one of seven that formed ERIC roughly 11 years ago.

“Virginia has been participating in talks with other states for several months about creating new state-to-state data-sharing relationships for the purpose of identifying potential double voters,” a state Department of Elections spokesperson said in June.

The communications director for the Tennessee secretary of state said discussions are underway with Virginia about creating a state-to-state partnership for maintaining voter rolls.

Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams is considering the possibility of leaving ERIC but says his state will remain for another year.

“ERIC has helped Kentucky comply with the law and conduct fair elections,” Adams said. "It nevertheless is true that the value of ERIC to us going forward is a debatable question.”

He also argued that remaining in ERIC would be “equally irresponsible” as other cites leave, citing the resulting higher membership fees and having just one neighboring state participate.

Kentucky joined ERIC after a legal settlement regarding Adams’ predecessor’s handling of voter rolls. And Adams has asked a judge whether the state must remain. 

New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said that Ohio officials have approached her to discuss an agreement to share data, but she declined.

“I am very interested in the longevity of ERIC because the concept of doing state-by-state agreements, it’s just a mess,” Toulouse Oliver said.

As more states were leaving ERIC earlier this year, the partnership's executive director, Shane Hamlin, wrote in a March 2 open letter on ERIC's website that state election officials – "our members" – govern the group and fund day-to-day operations through payment of annual dues, which they set for themselves.

Hamlin also argued that ERIC employees working remotely to limit operating costs does not create a security risk for the data bases. 

"ERIC is never connected to any state's voter registration system," he wrote. "Members retain complete control over their voter rolls and they use the reports we provide in ways that comply with federal and state laws."

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