Let’s be clear: in the United States, no state or national election result in modern history has been impacted by voter fraud, and those who claim otherwise seek to undermine democracy, not improve it.
Yet it makes sense for states to keep voter data current to eliminate those possibilities and avoid voting rolls cluttered with duplicates or ineligible people. To the discredit of most mainstream media, most people don’t realize a nationwide system to keep voter rolls current has operated for a decade.
Created through collaboration among states and Pew Charitable Trusts in 2012, the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), is a non-profit, non-partisan consortium managed and financed by thirty member states.
Those states regularly share voter registration and motor vehicle license records through an encrypted process. ERIC then identifies and sends back any inaccuracies or duplicates, and flags who moved, who died, and who is eligible to vote but isn’t registered.
ERIC can even identify illegitimate votes and flagged 372 likely cases of double voting or someone casting a deceased person’s ballot among the 14.6 million mail ballots cast during the 2016 and 2018 elections (.0025 percent).
Notably, ERIC leaves it to member states to act on the information, unlike the now-defunct Interstate Crosscheck program (promoted by notorious vote suppressor Kris Kobach), which directly removed citizens from voter rolls in participating states and wrongly disenfranchised many people through either incompetent or malicious practices.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas effectively sued Crosscheck out of existence in 2019 on behalf of people whose social security numbers were exposed, driving most members to join ERIC.
Between 2012 and 2018, ERIC identified 10 million registered voters who had moved or appeared on more than one voting list, and it’s the only tool to accurately learn whether any person cast ballots for the same election in two states.
Along with preventing fraud and increasing government efficiency, ERIC has identified 26 million persons who were eligible to cast ballots but were not registered to vote.
With this track record, many election observers were stunned when Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin withdrew from ERIC in late January while making demonstrably false allegations about ERIC’s funding and other management.
Louisiana corrected more than 600,000 voter records thanks to ERIC’s data before becoming the first state ever to leave.
The source of disinformation was obvious. Just days earlier, the far-right Gateway Pundit blog published a slew of fabricated allegations about ERIC. The hit piece rippled through social media and other blogs and is having its desired impact.
Along with Ardoin’s action, a candidate for Alabama Secretary of State announced his first act if elected would be to quit ERIC.
The inescapable conclusion? Many people complaining about “voter fraud” want to ensure the tiny amount of it continues, lest they lose their excuse for employing fifty distinct voter suppression tactics in U.S. states.
So why pay attention to this threat amidst the broader attacks on voting? ERIC is clearly the best tool to minimize the chance of illegitimate votes, so people and organizations who profess concern about voter fraud while failing to embrace ERIC reveal their dishonesty.
Unitarian Universalists' belief in the democratic process should call us to expose this hypocrisy. Democracy requires trust, and we must defend trust-building institutions like ERIC that also provide the means to expand democratic participation.
Because ERIC and the attempt to undermine it are unknown to most Americans, a few people speaking up to support this bipartisan success story in any state are likely to make an impact. If your state is not yet participating in ERIC (see map above), ask your Secretary of State about it. And if you’re in an ERIC member state with a Republican Secretary of State, consider sending a note of support for participating.
Effective activism often involves issues most people never learn about!
Jeff welcomes your criticism, questions, and commentary. Tweet @JMilchen.