What’s Wrong with ERIC? Judicial Watch Study Details Left-Leaning Roots, Data Security Concerns, Possible Violations of Federal Law at the Electronic Registration Information Center
Republican-leaning states are bailing out of the reputedly non-partisan Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) and the media are in an uproar. National Public Radio declares that ERIC is a victim of a “far right…disinformation campaign.” The New York Times warns that ERIC is under attack from “election deniers.” The very “backbone of American elections is being upended,” says Politico.
Protesting “recent misinformation,” ERIC Executive Director Shane Hamlin posted an “open letter” in March saying that ERIC “is a non-profit membership organization created by state election officials to help improve the accuracy of state voter rolls and register more eligible Americans to vote.”
Until recently, ERIC was a 32-state organization with two distinct missions: clean up dirty voter rolls and increase voter registration. But over the past year, seven states have pulled out—Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, West Virginia, Missouri, Ohio, and Iowa—citing concerns over data security and the left-wing orientation of the organization. Florida withdrew in March, saying the group had rejected proposals that “would have eliminated concerns about ERIC’s potential partisan leanings, and made the information shared with ERIC more secure.” Other “red states might soon head for the exits,” warned the Washington Post, “causing the system to collapse—and making ballot fraud harder to detect next year.”
Here at Judicial Watch, we know whereof we speak when it comes to ballot fraud, voter registration, and cleaning up dirty voter rolls. Action by the Judicial Watch election integrity team has resulted in important reforms and the removal of over two million inactive voters from voting rolls, including more than 1.2 million in Los Angeles County, 550,000 in New York City, and 240,000 in Pennsylvania. You can read more about that here.
We took a close look at ERIC and found plenty of reasons for concern.
A new Judicial Watch white paper notes that on voter roll cleanups, ERIC does not actually require that member states “remove ineligible voters from their registration rolls.” States are only required to “initiate contact” with those voters. “ERIC claims to have identified 2,498,688 registered voters who relocated across state lines, 203,210 duplicate registrations, and 65,437 deceased registered voters,” the JW study notes. But according to an independent analysis cited in the JW white paper, “states that do not participate in ERIC had a higher rate of identifying and removing from voter registration rolls individuals who relocated out of a jurisdiction than ERIC member states.” It’s worth noting as well that powerhouse states California and New York—hardly bastions of right-wing reaction—have never been members of ERIC.
The leadership behind ERIC also is cause for concern. The JW white paper notes that ERIC was founded by left-leaning attorney David Becker with $157,000 in grants from the George Soros-funded Pew Charitable Trusts. Soros’s Open Society Institute lists Pew as a “donor partner.” Becker went on to found CEIR, the Center for Election Innovation and Research, but remained active with ERIC as a non-voting board member. Last month, as controversy mounted, Becker announced he would not seek reelection to ERIC’s board.
Concerns over bias come into sharper focus when considering ERIC’s other chief mission, voter registration—long a major preoccupation of the Left. “Since its inception,” reports the JW white paper, “ERIC has been far more successful at identifying unregistered voters than duplicate or invalid registrations. The organization reports identifying more than 60 million unregistered voters since 2012.”
“CEIR works closely with ERIC in managing state voter rolls,” notes the JW report. In September 2020, CEIR received a $70 million grant from the Zuckerberg philanthropies for “voter education programs.” Much of that money was funneled to Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia, New York, and Arizona for voter mobilization activities—all (except New York) battleground states in the 2020 presidential campaign.
Research by Judicial Watch also raises concerns about data-sharing between ERIC and Becker’s Center for Election Innovation. “The large amount of sensitive data provided to ERIC by its member states and the role of the organization in maintaining voter rolls may violate a number of federal statutes,” the JW study notes. While the Help America Vote Act secures electronic voter registration, there is “no provision in the statute that authorizes any state to outsource these obligations to a third-party entity.” The outsourcing by the states of voter registration list maintenance to ERIC may also violate the National Voter Registration Act, which protects from disclosure the identities of individuals who decline to register to vote. And the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act specifically shields from disclosure the kind of data provided to ERIC by member states to conduct list maintenance.
What’s wrong with ERIC? Add up the evidence: left-wing sponsors and affiliations, ineffective voter roll cleanup, robust voter registration efforts in swing states, sketchy data sharing practices—a “syndicate founded by leftists to manage voter registration rolls”—JW President Tom Fitton calls it—disingenuous about its true motives and richly deserving of its coming collapse.
Micah Morrison is chief investigative reporter for Judicial Watch. Additional reporting by JW Senior Investigator Sean Dunagan. Follow Micah on Twitter @micah_morrison. Tips: [email protected]
Investigative Bulletin is published by Judicial Watch. Reprints and media inquiries: [email protected]