Updated: Aug 12
August 11, 2023
By Alex Weddon, MFE writer
Business is not good for the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC). A quarter of paying customers have left the non-profit organization, nine in the past few months. These states voiced concerns with ERIC’s partisan ties, data privacy concerns, lack of transparency, threats to election integrity, and focus on voter registration versus voter roll clean up.
ERIC’s product? ERIC claims to groom voter rolls for easy clean-up by the member states, but the organization’s receipt of states’ election information and its sharing of that information are likely violations of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). Started in 2012, the small group offered a nationwide database of voters, updated and available. The fee for outsourcing this in-state requirement continues to rise, even as the company weakens. With Virginia the most recent to jump ship, ERIC has dwindled to 22 states, well below than half the nation.
“As fewer states participated in ERIC, the costs were set to increase. Texas would be paying more for less data,” said Alicia Pierce, a spokesperson for the Texas Secretary of State.
Part of ERIC’s problem is that it is a tax-exempt Delaware Corporation that is not subject to Open Records or Sunshine laws. Additionally, ERIC’s bylaws are not easily amended for improvement based on lessons learned. It has no actual offices and only 4 work-at-home employees.
Inaccurate, Costly, and Inefficient, published in 2012 by The Pew Center On The States, found that approximately 1 out of 8 voter registrations in the U.S. were no longer valid or significantly inaccurate, more than 1.8 million deceased individuals were listed as voters, and approximately 2.75 million people had registrations in more than one state. Additionally, the report estimated there were at least 51 million eligible U.S. citizens who were not registered – about 24 percent of the eligible population. As the official record of all eligible voters in a state, a state’s voter registration rolls are the foundation of free, fair, and accurate elections. Most states are required by the federal National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) to “conduct a general program that makes a reasonable effort to remove the names of ineligible voters” from the rolls. ERIC was once considered the premier source for many states and private companies searching across the nation for registered and non-registered people. Its proponents had, after all, sued a competitor out of business, leaving ERIC a monopoly. Recently, ERIC has come under scrutiny for registering noncitizens and providing undisclosed third parties with illegal access to state residents’ personal information. As a result, it has been losing members. The 4-employee nonprofit fails to remove moved, ineligible, and dead voters.
On June 17, Verityvote.us, led by citizen Heather Honey, an investigator by trade, unveiled public source documents showing ERIC had crossed a red line.
Honey wrote, “The primary effect of ERIC is to grow the voter rolls by converting eligible-but-unregistered (EBU) persons into registered voters. States divulge to ERIC personally identifying information of unregistered residents, including people who have declined to register for privacy reasons. FOIAs reveal that ERIC is sharing EBU records with Zuckerberg-funded CEIR.”
Come to find out, Michigan’s secretary of state is sending state residents’ legally protected information to ERIC. Then ERIC, a Delaware nonprofit corporation with no home office and that last filed an annual report in 2017, transfers that data to the Center for Election Innovation Research. CEIR then massages the data with its own secret algorithms to identify which potential voters the clerk should contact.
No matter that CEIR and ERIC were both founded and are actively led by one leftist David Becker. Becker, the former general counsel of the Securities and Exchange Commission, underwent ethics charges in 2011.
With 28 member states and the District of Columbia in 2022, only 22 remain half-way through 2023. Virginia is the most recent state to cancel ERIC, joining Louisiana, Florida, Missouri, West Virginia, Alabama, Ohio, Texas, and Iowa. Alaska are also considering resigning from ERIC.
In March of 2023, Ohio's Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s echoed concerns of others when withdrawing.
“This decision does not come without careful thought and extensive conversations with my counterparts in the organization,” LaRose wrote, “The action Ohio is taking today follows nearly a year of good faith, bipartisan efforts to reform ERIC’s oversight and services. 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.
“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.” the Secretary concluded in his letter.
Another issue plaguing ERIC is its lack of a unified system for data sharing, something ERIC has wanted from its formation. From ERIC's website, the seven states that first joined ERIC believed using state-of-the-art data matching technology would improve their ability to maintain accurate voter rolls. It would also have the added benefit of allowing them to reach out to unregistered, but likely eligible, individuals more efficiently than anyone else. But that was over 12 years ago, and the flawed system has grown worse as technologies advanced.
Today, alternative technologies make data management readily available to each state, enabling them to manage their own voter rolls as federal law requires each state to do. Since states can do everything themselves, they have no need for ERIC. In Michigan, Checkmyvote.org (CMV) allows any of the state's 1,200 clerks to automatically search the official state voter rolls and generate reports on names and addresses needing more attention. There are others like it, but this CMV is a good example because it is open to public and free to use. The website was independently driven by spreadsheet savvy Michiganians and consistently outperforms ERIC in finding and flagging suspect registrations.
Interestingly, the Chair of the Board of Directors of the underperforming ERIC is Jonathon Brater, Director of Michigan's Bureau of Elections. Despite the fact that Michigan has more voters registered than its population of eligible voters, no grumblings or cries for ERIC reform are coming from Brater’s office. It appears that performance is not a consideration when it comes the state remaining a member, and that can't be good for business.