Florida pulls out of voter registration group
The move seems to leave supervisors of elections in Florida without a way to compare registrations across state lines and counter duplicate registrations.
File photo: Election specialist works on a computer as election results come in for the District 24 House of Representatives special election at the Marion County Election Center in Ocala, Fla. on Tuesday, March 7, 2023. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2022.
Secretary of State Cord Byrd, through a statement issued on March 6, announced that Florida was withdrawing its membership from the Electronic Registration Information Center, known as ERIC, along with the states of Missouri and West Virginia.
Up until this point, the non-profit membership organization, which is based in Washington D.C., consisted of approximately 32 states in the U.S. and District of Columbia. ERIC started with only seven states in 2012. Florida joined in 2019, with the support of both parties and unanimously by all 67 supervisors of elections in the state. The organization is funded by its member states.
Data matches by the center can identify voters registered in more than one state, people who have moved between states and people who have died. The matches can help county elections officials identify and remove people who are no longer eligible to vote from registration lists.
Mark Ard, spokesperson for the Secretary, would not answer the specific question pressed by the “Gazette” asking what other platforms, besides ERIC, could local elections supervisors use to check voter registration across state lines.
An inability to find another multi-state platform to switch to, such as ERIC, combined with a lack of information from the Secretary’s office, could lead one to believe it is highly possible that local election supervisors are without the resources they once utilized to maintain good voter rolls.
“Today’s announcement follows efforts led by Florida over the past year to reform ERIC through attempts to secure data and eliminate ERIC’s partisan tendencies, all of which were rejected. Withdrawing from ERIC will ensure the data privacy of Florida voters is protected,” Byrd wrote in the statement.
Byrd explained in his statement that a working group was formed and sought to increase protections of confidential voter information and to limit the power of ex-officio members of the ERIC board who “are not representatives of specific states and have undue influence over the organization and its decisions.”
The “Gazette” asked the Secretary of State’s office what specific concerns went unaddressed by ERIC and received an email from Ard outlining the following “non-exhaustive list”:
- Amending ERIC Bylaws to ensure that ERIC Membership consists only of Members who answer to the voters and taxpayers they represent.
- Repealing non-voting seats on ERIC’s Board of Directors.
- Permitting member states to use ERIC’s data-sharing services “a-la-carte,” in the manner which they believe best services their local interests. For example, members should not be forced to meet specific requirements, such as Eligible but Unregistered voter mailings or cross-state fraud analysis, if they do not deem those actions necessary or relevant to the needs of their respective states.
- Strengthening list maintenance reporting requirements to more closely align with the National Voter Registration Act.
- Enhanced confidentiality of Member citizens’ data, including restrictions on ERIC from sharing data outside of ERIC’s Members and imposing restrictions on Members from receiving another Members’ data outside of the listed reports.
- The ERIC membership agreement prohibits the sharing of non-citizen information despite some Members allowing non-citizens to vote.
Shane Hamlin, executive director of ERIC, issued a statement to address “recent misinformation spreading about ERIC,” explaining how their service works and who stays in control of the data.
“We analyze voter registration and motor vehicle department data, provided by our members through secure channels, along with official federal death data and change of address data, in order to provide our members with various reports. They use these reports to update their voter rolls, remove ineligible voters, investigate potential illegal voting, or provide voter registration information to individuals who may be eligible to vote.”
“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,” he added.
Hamlin also stated that their organization follows widely accepted security protocols for handling data.
Florida News Service contributed to this report.