Georgia company pursues multistate voter registration cancellations

EagleAI and its Trump supporters seek to replace ERIC voter list cleanup
Voters lined up to cast ballots on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021 at the Park Tavern in Atlanta. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Voters lined up to cast ballots on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021 at the Park Tavern in Atlanta. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

A private company called EagleAI, with the support of Republican “election integrity” activists, is attempting to sell software to Georgia election officials and residents that would enable them to aggressively cancel voter registrations.

The company’s software could be used by local governments as well as individuals who have challenged the eligibility of tens of thousands of voters since the 2020 presidential election.

EagleAI’s sales pitch has alarmed voting rights organizations that say it could be abused to attempt to disenfranchise legitimate voters.

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

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Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

Georgia is already planning to cancel 191,000 inactive voter registrations this month, but an EagleAI presentation alleges the state’s voter rolls are bloated with people who have died or moved away. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger disagrees, saying Georgia’s voter lists are “the cleanest in the nation.”

EagleAI (pronounced Eagle Eye) touts itself as a potential replacement for the Electronic Registration Information Center, a voter registration information sharing organization that currently has 25 states as members, including Georgia. The bipartisan collaboration has been attacked by conservatives who believe it’s biased and ineffective. Nine Republican-led states have withdrawn from ERIC.

Claims of inaccurate voter rolls became a pressing issue among Republican election skeptics in the wake of Donald Trump’s loss in the 2020 election. Since then, they’ve filed challenges to nearly 100,000 Georgia voters’ eligibility, in some cases forcing legitimate voters to defend their right to vote.

Though EagleAI says it is nonpartisan, its CEO frequently speaks during Zoom calls hosted by Cleta Mitchell, an attorney who supported efforts to overturn Trump’s loss and participated in the former president’s call to Raffensperger asking him to “find” enough votes to reverse the outcome. A Fulton County grand jury is considering whether to indict Trump and his allies this week in connection with their efforts to overturn the election.

The Zoom calls, which bring together members of Mitchell’s Election Integrity Network group, also included Jason Frazier, a Republican Party nominee to the Fulton County election board who has challenged the registrations of almost 10,000 people since last year.

Eagle AI CEO Rick Richards, a self-described “serial entrepreneur,” said the company’s software excludes party information, and he said it’s also supported by Democrats and independents as well as Republicans.

EagleAI, a company incorporated in Evans near Augusta, is negotiating with Columbia County’s election board and has discussed working with a dozen more Georgia counties, according to emails obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution under the the state’s open records law.

The company asked the secretary of state’s office to bid on a contract for statewide voter registration management, though no such contract exists, according to the emails.

Credit: University of Alabama

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Credit: University of Alabama

“EagleAI data offers zero additional value to Georgia’s existing list maintenance procedures,” said Georgia Elections Director Blake Evans. “We already utilize the most accurate death data through our Department of Public Health and the Social Security death master list. We already check for duplicates.”

Richards said EagleAI’s software relies on publicly available data such as voter registrations, Postal Service information and death records to identify potentially ineligible voters.

EagleAI alleges there are more registered voters than residents in several Georgia counties, but Evans said the company’s analysis is flawed because it includes voters who are already designated as “inactive,” meaning they’ll lose their registrations if they decline to vote in the next two general elections, according to federal election laws.

There are currently 8 million registered voters in Georgia, including 7.2 million active voters, in a state with an estimated voting-age population of 8.4 million, according to the state’s voter list and the U.S. Elections Project at the University of Florida.

Richards said EagleAI would help the public file challenges to voters’ eligibility and make it easier for election officials to evaluate them.

“EagleAI NETwork simply points out voter registrations that need to be reviewed by the election officials, and provides an easy-to-use interface for engaging with the government’s own data,” Richards wrote in a statement Sunday. “... EagleAI NETwork is a tool where citizens concerned with this issue can log in, see the data, easily review the data against publicly available data, and with a click send the data to their local election officials.”

The voting rights group Fair Fight said it opposes privatizing voter registration management and empowering challenges to voters’ eligibility. Under Georgia’s 2021 voting law, any voter can challenge an unlimited number of voters, forcing county election boards to hold hearings and decide on voters’ qualifications.

“Efforts by conspiracy theorists and anti-voter extremists to strip eligible voters from the rolls through mass voter challenges and aggressive voter purges are one of the biggest threats to our democracy as we look ahead to 2024,” Fair Fight spokeswoman Xakota Espinoza said. These efforts are part of a broader nationwide strategy to make administering elections more difficult while intimidating and harassing voters the GOP deems undesirable.”

Columbia County is reviewing EagleAI’s proposal and hasn’t yet implemented it, said Larry Wiggins, a Democratic Party member of the county’s election board.

Wiggins said EagleAI’s software could be a useful tool for election workers when they check the accuracy of activists’ voter eligibility challenges. Authority over voter registrations would remain under the government’s control, and voters would still receive mailed notifications before their registrations are canceled.

“It doesn’t change anything we do as far as the physical contact with the voter and verification,” Wiggins said. “It works the other way, too: It can verify that a voter is legitimate. It’s not a tool to get people off the rolls. It’s just to verify both ways.”

State Election Board Chairman Bill Duffey warned Columbia County’s election board that it still must comply with Georgia voter registration laws if it decides to work with EagleAI.

A state law passed this year prohibits private donations or giving anything of value to county election officials, meaning EagleAI couldn’t allow Columbia County to use its software for free as a test market, Duffey wrote in a May letter. State laws also prohibit counties from sharing voter registration forms, and counties must protect private information such as complete dates of birth and Social Security numbers.

EagleAI LLC, which doesn’t have a public website, was founded in July 2022, according to state business records. The full name of the company’s product is EagleAI NETwork because EagleAI is trademarked by another company, Richards said.

Greater Georgia, a voter mobilization group led by former Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, is conducting its own program for challenging potentially invalid voter registrations, including people registered at business addresses, felons, the deceased and residents who have moved.

The organization said it considered a proposal from EagleAI but never moved forward with it. Greater Georgia isn’t using EagleAI’s software and hasn’t given any money to the business.

“Greater Georgia’s Election Integrity Defenders program is actively working to verify voter rolls in 159 counties,” Loeffler said. “That means ensuring only registered, eligible citizens are voting. It’s a goal everyone who cares about fair elections should support.”

EagleAI says it plans to start its voter registration list efforts in Georgia, then expand to other states, including Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina and Texas.