ERIC, the Electronic Registration Information Center, is a 501(c)3 organization comprised of 26 member states and the District of Columbia. In concept, ERIC is a convenient way for states to compare their data to ensure voter registration maintenance is done in an effective manner, allowing the members to identify potential duplicate records or ineligible voters on their lists.
In practice, a lack of transparency has in some cases prevented the public and election integrity advocacy organizations from carrying out the public oversight of voter list maintenance that is called for under the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA).
In January, the state of Louisiana suspended its participation in ERIC:
“When Louisiana joined ERIC under my predecessor, we did so under the impression that it would enhance the accuracy of our voter rolls and strengthen Louisiana’s election integrity. After reading about these allegations and speaking with election attorneys and experts, I have determined that it may no longer be in Louisiana’s best interests to participate in this organization,” Secretary Ardoin said. “It is vital that any legitimate allegation of voter fraud or possible misuse of our voters’ personal information is investigated. My job is to ensure that the data voters entrust to my office is protected. I look forward to ERIC’s swift response to these allegations.”
In March alone, an additional four states have terminated their relationship with the organization amid concerns about a partisan bias and the mandatory spending of taxpayer dollars on voter registration drives.
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose made his reasons for withdrawing the state from ERIC clear:
“ERIC has chosen repeatedly to ignore demands to embrace reforms that would bolster confidence in its performance, encourage growth in its membership, and ensure not only its present stability but also its durability. Rather, you have chosen to double-down on poor strategic decisions, which have only resulted in the transformation of a previously bipartisan organization to one that appears to favor only the interests of one political party. I believe the current actions and inactions of ERIC will effectively set in motion its demise…
…I cannot justify the use of Ohio’s tax dollars for an organization that seems intent on rejecting meaningful accountability, publicly maligning my motives, and waging a relentless campaign of misinformation about this effort. The conduct of ERIC and some of its hyper-partisan allies in recent weeks only heightens my suspicion and reinforces my decision. Additionally, I cannot accept the board’s refusal – for a third time – to adopt basic reforms to the use of ERIC’s datasharing services. I fundamentally believe that every dues-paying ERIC member should have the right to use these services in the best interest of their own state and its taxpayers. This should be a non-controversial policy, yet you have chosen to make it a hyperbolic, partisan fight that has fractured an organization that had so much potential for good..”.
The members of ERIC provide their voter registration records and drivers’ license/identification (DMV) records (other official state data sources may be accepted but are not required). Fields related to name, address, driver’s license or state ID number, last four digits of social security number, date of birth, and activity date are required, if present. Members also submit information on current record status, phone number, and email address when available.
ERIC compares common identifying data elements and uses additional tools such as a name variation database, fuzzy matching, and record linkage. Record linkage is a matching methodology that compares multiple data sources at the same time. For example, using a mailing address on a DMV record might provide the missing link that confirms a match between two voter records that otherwise wouldn’t have enough information on their own be sure.
ERIC subscribes to the USPS National Change of Address (NCOA) database and the Social Security Limited Access Death Master File to provide information on possibly deceased voters to its members.
OPTIONAL MEMBER ACTIVITIES:
ERIC produces reports for each member by analyzing the results of the matching to identify voter records from that member that may be outdated or inaccurate or people who are not currently registered to vote. Once the reports are generated, they are available for secure download by members. Members can also opt-in to submit election participation data and receive reports identifying potential individuals who may have cast multiple ballots in the same state, or in multiple states and individuals who may have had a ballot cast after they were deceased.
MANDATORY MEMBER ACTIVITIES:
Members must commit to contacting voters whose registration information is identified by ERIC as inaccurate or outdated, educating voters on how to update their record. All voter registration list maintenance activity based on information provided by ERIC must be conducted under the strict guidelines of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) and state laws.
Members are required to contact all Eligible But Unregistered (EBU) residents in their state to encourage them to register to vote.
Unfortunately, what could be a fantastic program is flawed by the complete lack of transparency within ERIC.
- ERIC is holding a tremendous amount of data about both registered voters and those who are Eligible But Unregistered in its member states. With whom is this data being shared? More disclosure is necessary.
- The Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) has engaged in litigation seeking a judgment requiring ERIC to allow its members to release the voter list maintenance reports held by the members.
- Under the ERIC contract with its members, this information is required to be withheld. PiLF has argued that this is a violation of the National Voter Registration Act’s Public Disclosure provision.
- ERIC should release its members from the provisions that do not permit the 27 members of the organization, which are all government agencies, to comply with public record, NVRA record and FOIA requests.
UPDATE: March 17, 2023
As of this writing, four more member states have announced that they are leaving ERIC: FL, MO, WV and today, Ohio. All four states indicated they made attempts to reform the organization to allow for the voter registration drives to be OPTIONAL, as well as having made efforts to ensure there was a clear distinction between the ‘non-partisan’ work to maintain voter rolls and the C4 organization CEIR, which distributed millions of dollars of Zuckerburg donations to select election offices in the 2020 election cycle (so-called Zuckerbucks).
https://ericstates.org Member States: As of March 2023: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. The District of Columbia is also a member. (26 states plus D.C.) *Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio and West Virginia have suspended their ERIC membership.