Bringing ERIC to the States: A Bipartisan Review of Campaigning, Data Analysis, and Election Integrity Network Monitoring (Extended Abstract)
In short, it’s easy to proclaim that free, fair and well-run elections are the lifeblood of democracy; it’s a lot harder to put that ideal into practice. One early effort, like the Interstate Crosscheck program, failed miserably because of inadequate data analysis and poor security practices. The time, money and expertise necessary to build a comprehensive, secure and useful database of voter information was devoting by ERIC. That information — drawn from voter rolls, D.M.V. records, Social Security death records and change-of-address data — gets analyzed, matched and compiled into reports that are provided to the states to help them clean up their rolls.
The reviewers were very positive. When Florida joined ERIC in 2019, Gov. Ron DeSantis said it was “the right thing to do for our state, as it will ensure our voter rolls are up-to-date and it will increase voter participation in our elections.” The secretary of state for Iowa described ERIC as a godSend; his counterpart in Ohio called it one of the best fraud-fighting tools that we have. By 2022, 31 states and the District of Columbia had signed up to pay the organization’s $25,000 membership fee. States pay dues based on the voting-age population.
It was true that ERIC did all of this in a bipartisan way. Danielle Lang, senior director of the voting-rights program at the Campaign said that it was a place where red and blue states came together and had a system for keeping the right people on the rolls.
The group said in a post that the campaign was to “run a campaign directed at key Florida legislators.” “Hand delivered letters, emails, phone calls, and social media activity will all be utilized to maximize impact.”
Emails obtained by NPR showed election officials beginning to field questions from voters and state legislators in the aftermath of the calls.
He worked with former President Donald Trump to try to change the result of the 2020 election. The attorney was on the infamous call where Trump asked Georgia election officials to “find votes.”
Her podcast, “Who’s Counting,” has become a central hub for stolen election narratives, and she’s also started a coalition of grassroots groups across the country called the Election Integrity Network.
She even hosted a secret ERIC summit with red state lawmakers last summer, according to documents shared with NPR by a nonprofit watchdog group called Documented.
In Louisiana, when Ardoin made the decision to leave ERIC, he was gearing up to run for reelection in a state Trump won by almost 20 percentage points. He was facing numerous challenges on his right. And ERIC was becoming a priority for Republican voters.
After the Gateway Pundit published its first article, Allen made a promise that if he won, he would pull out of ERIC. This January, he followed through, and Alabama became the second state to withdraw.
Secretaries of state in Missouri, West Virginia and Ohio — all states that have pulled out — have announced campaigns for higher office next year, or are expected to run.
In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis is a candidate for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. DeSantis appointed Cord Byrd as his secretary of state last year, and the state’s stance on ERIC shifted almost immediately.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, put it simply in an interview with NPR: The states that have left ERIC “indirectly said, ‘We’re going to have dirtier voter rolls.’ “
The impact of less accurate voter rolls on voters can come in the form of longer lines, mail ballots, and incorrect information sent to the wrong places.
J. Christian Adams, a conservative elections attorney, has long been a critic of how ERIC operates. He toldNPR that it will cause voter fraud because of the crazy zeal to get out of ERIC.
The Gateway Pundit’s coverage of ERIC: Why Republicans are abandoning an important tool to detect voter fraud in Ohio? An NPR investigation
“I’m sure there are going to be ripples that come from this particular move and I’m not exactly sure what the end will be,” she said. “I don’t think this is an isolated thing.”
NPR’s investigations team analyzed hundreds of thousands of social media posts on a handful of social media sites frequented by election deniers. We found the Gateway Pundit’s coverage started the far right’s fixation on the program:
The Gateway Pundit, a right-wing website with conspiracy theories in its past, began writing about ERIC in January 2022. Up until then, the partnership was considered a quiet bipartisan success story, with member states that spanned the political spectrum.
In an interview with NPR in February, the Secretary of State for Ohio said that if someone had voted in Ohio a decade ago, they would never have heard of it. “We can compare our voter rolls to the states with ERIC.”
The tool is the Electronic Registration Information Center, better known as ERIC. It was created over a decade ago to keep voter rolls up to date. When voters move and die, and there are times when they vote twice in a different state, it allows election officials to better insight into the situation.
Why are Republicans abandoning one of the best tools the government has to catch voter fraud? That simple question is the focus of a new NPR investigation, published Sunday.