How the backbone of the US election is being turned upside down

In the past year, five states with Republican election officials — Louisiana, Alabama, West Virginia, Missouri and Florida — have all left ERIC. Some states have used seemingly conspiratorial reasons for leaving – citing a secret Liberal plot to take control of voter rolls. Other complaints are more about the structure of the organization coming to the surface, which the organization’s defenders say is being used as a false pretext to leave.

Beneath it all: ERIC — once something conservatives widely hailed as a key “election integrity tool” — suddenly came under fire from segments of the Republican base still buoyed by Trump’s 2020 defeat.

Election officials in Ohio, Texas and Alaska — all of which also have Republican election officials — have also publicly signaled they are considering leaving the organization.

But not all Republicans get carried away. Notably, Georgian Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger pledged his support for the organization after the recent departures.

“States pretend they want to fight illegal voting and clean up voter rolls – but then leave the best and only group capable of detecting double voting across state lines,” he tweeted. , attaching a gif of Spongebob punches himself in the face. By “reacting to misinformation, they have harmed their own state and others while undermining voter confidence.”

The sudden exit of the tri-states earlier this month “caught me by surprise,” Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon, a Democrat, said in an interview on the day the tri-states pulled out, adding that There had been a bipartisan group working to try to find common ground to preserve membership.

The problem for many states considering leaving now is the structure of ERIC, which was founded more than a decade ago by a handful of states roughly evenly split between Democratic-led and Democratic-led states. republicans. ERIC, in general, helps states maintain voter rolls by helping election officials identify people who may have moved or died, and requires states to maintain rolls by removing voters who do not are not eligible.

Basically, the complaints landed in two buckets: In addition to removing registered voters, ERIC also requires member states to contact potentially eligible but unregistered voters to see if they want to register, a practice some Republicans want terminate because they say it’s superfluous and a waste of resources.

The makeup of the organization’s board of directors has also been a big point of contention. The council is largely made up of one voting representative, usually a senior election official, from each member state.

But the board also has two non-voting positions: one currently vacant and the other filled by David Becker, a former Justice Department lawyer who played a key role in establishing ERIC and who is now the founder and executive director of the Center for Election Innovation. & Research.

Since the 2020 election, Becker has been a vocal critic of former President Donald Trump’s lies about the security of the 2020 election, and more broadly has become a prominent commentator on US election laws and systems.

On leaving, several of the departing states publicly complained that Becker was a “supporter”, without directly naming him. It’s a charge Becker has vehemently pushed back against.

“There is truth and there are lies, and I will continue to stand up for the truth and the men and women – the country’s public servants – who support the elections and have held the most secure, transparent and verified elections in the world. American history over the past few years,” he told a small group of reporters last week.

His organization also circulated a letter from prominent current and former Republican election officials and lawyers — including Raffensperger — earlier this week in his defense, saying that “extremists are targeting Becker and CEIR, seeking to undermine their work to support the professional civil servants who work to ensure secure elections.

Nonetheless, Becker announced earlier this week that he would not accept the reappointment as a non-voting board member on Friday, speaking out against what he called “attacks fueled by disinformation” that led to some states leaving the organization.

A senior Republican election official who has remained broadly supportive of ERIC — and was granted anonymity to discuss sensitive internal dynamics — predicted that Becker not serving on the board could bring the temperature down on Friday. Some of the states on the fence “are more comfortable staying now and ERIC is surviving,” the official predicted — at least “until the next divisive issue” emerges.

And indeed, the role of the ex-officio position was a rare point of agreement for the other members of the ERIC board.

A vote to abolish those two positions at Friday’s meeting was almost unanimous, according to Becker, who briefed a small group of reporters immediately after the meeting. All states present at the meeting voted to abolish these positions except West Virginia, which abstained in this vote and others.

West Virginia’s resignation is not effective until June. Becker said West Virginia was the only state to say it was leaving the organization to attend Friday’s meeting.

Friday’s meeting touched on some contentious issues, including a proposal that would let member states choose what they do with ERIC data, an ‘à la carte’ option. Another idea on the table that attempted to ensure members stay would effectively link two of ERIC’s reports – the one on eligible but unregistered voters and the “voter turnout report”, which member states use to catch potential dual voters – together, meaning states could choose to participate in either or none of them.

Both of these proposals received majority support, according to Becker, but neither passed the threshold required to change the organization’s bylaws. Becker noted that the proposal to link the two reports, put forward by Pennsylvania and Georgia, had more support.

It is not immediately clear whether the move to remove ex-officio members would be enough to appease states considering leaving. “Hopefully this will keep states going and help maintain clean voter rolls across the country,” said Gabriel Sterling, a senior official in the Georgia secretary of state’s office. tweeted shortly after the encounter.

It is also unclear what the departing states will do to fill the gap in their list of maintenance mechanisms without ERIC. States have signaled that they will try to move some operations in-house. Crosscheck, a Kansas-led interstate program in 2005, ultimately collapsed due to security vulnerabilities — but there are preliminary talks of a new ERIC competitor.

In an interview with POLITICO on the day his state announced it would be stepping down, Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft said there had been “conversations going on for a long period of time,” on “the creation of a new system or [finding] a way that states can do it only internally. (He played down the possibility of a bigger ERIC rival being set up in a later interview with The Kansas City Star.)

And in Texas – which is still a member of ERIC, although there is a bill to drop the program – Secretary of State Jane Nelson recently moved her Chief Electoral Officer to “a newly created position to develop and manage an interstate voter registration overlapping program.”

“I think there would be a market for such a system,” Jason Snead, executive director of the conservative Honest Elections Project, told reporters on Thursday. Snead added that he was “not aware of any plans that appear to be on track” to do so at this time.


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