ERIC loses another GOP state as Ohio quits election pact: NPR

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican, speaks during election night November 8, 2022 in Columbus, Ohio.

Jay Laprete/AP

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ERIC loses another GOP state as Ohio quits election pact: NPR

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican, speaks during election night November 8, 2022 in Columbus, Ohio.

Jay Laprete/AP

Ohio announced Friday that it was the latest Republican-led state to pull out of a key campaign partnership that has become the focus of far-right plots.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose — a Republican who is widely seen as planning to run for the U.S. Senate in 2024 — sent a letter to the executive director of the Electronic Registration Information Center, or ERIC, announcing the decision shortly after the bipartisan member states of the pact held a meeting on Friday.

“ERIC has repeatedly chosen to ignore calls to pass reforms that would build confidence in its performance, encourage the growth of its members, and ensure not only its current stability but also its sustainability,” LaRose wrote. “Instead, you have chosen to double down on bad strategic decisions, which have only resulted in the transformation of a previously bipartisan organization into one that appears to only favor the interests of one political party. “

ERIC is a multi-state partnership that experts from across the political spectrum say is the only reliable and secure way for states to share voter data with each other. The coalition lets states know when voters move or die, so they can keep their lists of registered voters up to date.

Last month, in an interview with NPR, LaRose called ERIC “one of the best tools we have for maintaining the accuracy of our voter records.”

But starting last year, far-right media began targeting the organization, arguing it was actually a way for Democrats to rig the election in their favor.

The groundswell continued, and Ohio and other Republican states began pushing for changes to the Membership Agreement and ERIC Bylaws to reduce what the Member States would be required to do. One of the main wishes was to no longer be required to contact eligible but unregistered voters, as stipulated in the current ERIC governance documents.

LaRose in his letter on Friday reiterated his desire to allow “Member States to use ERIC’s data sharing services ‘à la carte’, in a manner that they believe best serves their local interests.”

The ERIC board, made up of representatives from each member state, met on Friday to consider changes that LaRose, among other Republicans, had demanded in recent months. None of the proposed changes to how states use ERIC data passed, although the board voted to eliminate non-voting members from the organization.

“The Mouse Never Goes Away”

This aspect of the negotiations had become strained in recent months as the organization debated whether to essentially cut ties with lawyer and election expert David Becker, who helped set up ERIC when he worked at Pew Charitable Trusts over ten years ago.

Many conspiracy theories about ERIC have centered on Becker, who is generally highly respected in the voting community despite right-wing efforts to portray him as a supporter.

At the end, Becker announced earlier this week that he would not accept reappointment to his current position as the only non-voting board member, and the organization then voted on Friday to eliminate those positions altogether.

“Any organization has to be very careful not to think you can respond to bullies and conspiracy theorists by giving in to them,” Becker told NPR in an interview last month. “Several elected officials thought they could just give the mouse a cookie and it would go away. The mouse will never go away.”

Six Republican states have now opted out or announced their intention to opt out — all since the start of 2022. None have specified how they plan to keep their rosters up to date without the wealth of data they were receiving from the bipartisan partnership.

“It hurts this state more than it hurts us,” Brad Raffensperger — the Republican secretary of state for Georgia, another ERIC state — said after Alabama announced his departure earlier this year. “They just indirectly said, ‘Oh, we’re going to have dirtier voter lists here. “


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