While nine Republican-led states have recently quit the voter accuracy organization called ERIC, Georgia election officials say the numbers tell the story: It’s working.
ERIC’s information has resulted in 432,000 Georgia voter registrations canceled or made inactive during the past two years because they moved or died, according to data provided by the secretary of state’s office in response to a request from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Georgia’s voter registration list is more up to date because of the Electronic Registration Information Center, state election officials say. Cutting the number of outdated names on the voter rolls reduces the possibility of election fraud, which is rare in Georgia.
Conservative criticism of ERIC’s bylaws and perceived biases caused several states to withdraw from the organization, but the 24 states that remain are still exchanging information about voters who have registered to vote elsewhere, changed their addresses or died.
“ERIC remains the only large-scale list maintenance tool available to identify voters who have moved out of state and anyone who might fraudulently vote in two ERIC-member states in a general election,” said Mike Hassinger, a spokesman for Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. “ERIC is valuable for both list maintenance and election security.”
ERIC gives Georgia a way to more regularly update voter registrations beyond its scheduled mass cancellations of inactive voters that occur every other year. About 191,000 inactive registrations out of Georgia’s 8 million voters are scheduled to be removed during biennial list maintenance next month, but those cancellations aren’t connected to information from ERIC.
State election officials detailed ERIC’s impact in 2021 and 2022, the first two full years it was used in Georgia:
- 104,005 Georgia registrations were canceled for voters who moved to another ERIC state, according to voter registration and driver’s license data.
- 305,110 registrations were made inactive, a step toward their eventual cancellation, because of ERIC’s cross-state data and change-of-address information from the U.S. Postal Service. Under federal law, these registrations could be removed in 2025 if they don’t participate in elections before then.
- 22,806 registrations were canceled for people ERIC identified as deceased. ERIC provides death records from the Social Security Administration, supplementing state vital records.
States that left ERIC have objected to requirements that they send letters to eligible but unregistered residents, notifying them that they can sign up to vote. They’ve also cited concerns about data security and transparency when sharing voter information among states.
The nine states that withdrew from ERIC include several of Georgia’s Southern neighbors: Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Texas.
Former Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said it was a mistake for his state to end its membership of the fraud-fighting organization after he left office.
“It works extremely well. Nobody has ever been able to disprove that,” said Merrill, who couldn’t run for reelection last year after serving two terms. “The political argument that people have made is not related to ERIC’s effectiveness. If you remove ERIC as a tool, then what are you going to replace it with? Nobody has ever been able to answer that.”
Opponents of ERIC say states should find a better way of sharing voter registration information and cleaning up registration lists.
ERIC strayed from its mission by requiring states to notify potential new voters and by barring states from providing information about voters’ citizenship status, said Robert Popper, election director for Judicial Watch, a conservative government accountability organization. Noncitizens aren’t allowed to vote in Georgia, but a few cities across the country have permitted them to participate in local elections.
“Could it be that some part of the mission is being accomplished by ERIC? It could, but it could be done better by an institution that doesn’t have those biases,” Popper said. “I understand the value of having voter rolls you can compare, but ERIC seems to be throwing away what could be a valuable tool for the purpose of a lot of, frankly, silly political fighting.”
Popper said that even if voter fraud is rare, poorly maintained voter rolls make it easier. State election investigations have found very few cases of illegal voting in recent years.
The Republican states that have left ERIC have said they want to find a replacement, but none exists so far.
A defunct Kansas-based voter registration program called Crosscheck faced criticism for erroneously flagging legitimate voters. A Georgia startup company called EagleAI has drawn criticism from voting rights groups for trying to sell software to identify potentially invalid registrations.
In addition to the 432,000 Georgia registrations that have been canceled or made inactive, ERIC also flags potentially duplicate registration records and address inconsistencies.
Over 50,000 potentially duplicate registrations have been sent to county election officials to reconcile. An additional 209,000 people who used different addresses for their Georgia driver’s licenses were mailed postcards asking them to update their voter registrations if needed.
By the numbers
8 million: Registered voters in Georgia
432,000: Registrations canceled or made inactive through ERIC in 2021 and 2022
191,000: Planned cancellations of inactive registrations