By guest writer, author Patrice Johnson
On Thursday, Ohio and Iowa made 7. Seven states have jumped off the sputtering, belching, off-gassing Titanic that is ERIC, the Electronic Registration Information Center.
You see, ERIC hit an iceberg.
Its name was Truth.
Friday night, March 17, the Iowa Secretary of State issued a quiet Tweet: “My office will be recommending resigning our membership from ERIC.”
A statement in regard to Iowa's ERIC membership: pic.twitter.com/Xx372YWhGT
— Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate (@IowaSOS) March 17, 2023
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Earlier in the day, following an ERIC board meeting and an “embargoed” press conference in which only friendly press like the Washington Post were allowed to attend, Ohio’s Secretary of State made his announcement.
Ohio was withdrawing from ERIC, Secretary Frank LaRose declared, joining the growing throng of states that had voted with their feet. A few hours later, Iowa posted its notice, bringing the list of states that are abandoning ERIC to seven: Iowa, Ohio, Missouri, Florida, West Virginia, Alabama, and Louisiana.
LaRosa’s letter was the most scathing rebuke to the 3-employee, office-less, third-party ERIC yet.
“The action Ohio is taking today follows nearly a year of good faith, bipartisan efforts to reform ERIC’s oversight and services. Unfortunately, these attempts to save what could be an unparalleled election integrity service have fallen short.”
Then LaRose dispensed with the niceties.
“ERIC has chosen repeatedly to ignore demands to embrace reforms that bolster confidence in its performance [and] encourage growth in its membership . . . .”
“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 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.” [emphasis added].
LaRose was on a roll.
“Additionally, I cannot accept the board’s refusal – for a third time –to adopt basic reforms to the use of ERIC’s data-sharing services.” [emphasis added].
Ohio’s SOS was referring to ERIC’s transmission of private personally-identifying information to David Becker’s activist group, the Center for Election Innovation and Research (CEIR)–which received and helped disseminate $70 million in Zuckerbucks during the 2020 election.
Becker founded ERIC and served on ERIC’s board, most recently ex-officio. He resigned under pressure on Friday.
“This should be a non-controversial policy, yet you have chosen to make it a hyperbolic, partisan fight that has fractured ERIC,” LaRose wrote.
Operative word—fractured. Cracked wide open.
Now, all eyes turn to Texas, whose GOP issued a letter urging their Lone Star state to abandon the sinking ship:
Resolution to Terminate Membership in the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC)
WHEREAS, the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a 501(c)(3) organization which has 30 states and the District of Columbia as member states, has stated 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 citizens,” and yet reports only three employees and has no physical location; and
WHEREAS, ERIC receives Personally Identifiable Information of citizens and minors regardless of voting status from those states’ departments of motor vehicles; and
WHEREAS, the ERIC membership agreement requires that every sixty (60) days, each member state shall transmit all inactive and active voter files and all licensing or identification records contained in the motor vehicles database, including:
• all name fields
• all address fields
• driver’s license or state ID number
• last four digits of Social Security number
• date of birth
• activity dates as defined by the Board of Directors
• current record status
• affirmative documentation of citizenship
• the title/type of affirmative documentation of citizenship presented
• phone number
• e-mail address or other electronic contact method; and
WHEREAS, ERIC states in its membership agreement that “under no circumstances shall the member transmit an individual’s record where the record contains documentation or other information indicating that the individual is a non-citizen of the United States” yet, without that information ERIC is unable to perform a portion of the services for which it is contracted; and
WHEREAS, ERIC has violated the security of Texas registrants’ data by transmitting state data to third parties, such as the Center for Election Innovation and Research, whose data practices and usage are unknown to Texas and its citizens, and ERIC prohibits states from auditing its own work or that of any third-party vendor; and
WHEREAS, ERIC provides data regarding eligible or possibly eligible citizens who are not registered to vote, stating that, “the Member shall, at a minimum, initiate contact with each and every eligible or possibly eligible citizen and inform them how to register to vote. Each Member shall have until October 1 or fifteen (15) days before the close of registration, whichever is earlier, of the next Federal General Election year to initiate contact with at least 95% of the eligible or potentially eligible citizens on whom data was provided and address validation was performed”; and
WHEREAS, ERIC gives little focus to removing or identifying ineligible voters as required by Texas Election Code Section 18.062 Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program; and
WHEREAS, during the 2019 session, the 86th Texas Legislature appropriated $1.5 million taxpayer dollars, most of which is used to contact potential voters for Texas to join ERIC; and
WHEREAS, Under Texas law, county registrars must get interstate and intrastate move address changes from the USPS at least monthly (Texas Election Code Section 15.002), and intrastate moves are automatically updated whenever driver’s license data is updated (Texas Election Code Section 20.062); and
WHEREAS, the 2022 Republican Party of Texas Platform Plank 242(p) states “We support withdrawing from Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC)”; and
WHEREAS, the Republican Party of Texas supports the stated intent and both legal and legislative efforts, including, but not limited to, SB 399 submitted by Sen. Bob Hall, SB 1070 submitted by Senator Bryan Hughes, and HB 2809 by Representative Jacey Jetton to remove Texas from the ERIC program; now
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Republican Party of Texas calls for the Texas Legislators to pass legislation that would allow for the prompt removal of Texas from the ERIC program and implement an auditable service reconcilable to Texas counties; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Republican Party of Texas calls on the Texas Legislators to protect Texans personally identifiable information from being disseminated to organizations outside of the state government including public or private companies, NGOs, and non-profit organizations; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Republican Party of Texas supports the Texas Secretary of State, the Texas Attorney General and the Texas Legislators in all efforts to remove Texas from the ERIC program.