HARRISBURG – The Senate State Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Cris Dush (R-25), convened a public hearing on Wednesday to receive testimony from Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd and Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose regarding the departure from the Electronic Registration and Information Center (ERIC) by their respective states.
“In 2016, Pennsylvania’s Department of State entered into an agreement with ERIC without the consent of the legislature,” stated Dush in his opening remarks. “ERIC is a private corporation, founded by a partisan activist, that claims to help participating states identify ineligible voters at the county level. Today, we are here to discuss best practices for cleaning and maintaining voter rolls, and the problems with outsourcing this task to private corporations.”
To date, nine states (Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Missouri, West Virginia, Iowa, Ohio, Virginia and Texas) have withdrawn from ERIC over concerns about data privacy, transparency and partisanship. Additionally, all nine states are creating and implementing their own solutions to further ensure voter roll integrity.
“The writing is already on the wall about the future of ERIC,” said Dush. “They’re hemorrhaging members, which means costs go up for the rest of us. They’re losing court battles to keep their practices secret. States like Florida and Ohio are developing their own data sharing agreements requiring little to no cost, and proving they don’t need an opaque and costly corporation to do this for them.”
Secretary LaRose acknowledged that Ohio had never used ERIC data to cancel inactive or ineligible registration and criticized ERIC’s unbalanced approach to making voter list maintenance optional while making voter registration mandatory.
LaRose also highlighted Ohio’s continuing work to develop cross-state, data-sharing agreements, as well as other practices being picked up by various other states.
Said LaRose: “I describe voter list maintenance like hygiene. It’s like brushing your teeth. It’s something election officials need to do every day. We’re constantly doing voter list maintenance.”
Secretary Byrd raised concerns about the privacy, security and taxpayer costs of ERIC voter data, which directly contributed to Florida’s departure. He also stressed the importance of daily updates to voter lists.
“Literally every day supervisors are engaging in list maintenance – clean rolls lead to cleaner elections,” Byrd said. “Because it’s so easy to get on the rolls, we have to make sure we’re doing a good job on the front end.”
During his closing comments, Dush also expressed his optimism that Pennsylvania can begin cooperating with other states such as Ohio and Florida to fortify our electoral process, instill confidence in voters and preserve integrity in every election, at every level:
“I’m really encouraged and optimistic to learn about specific problems these states found and the solutions they’ve identified. We want to be solutions-oriented as we continue to enhance election integrity in the legislature.
“The purpose of today’s hearing was not necessarily to begin implementing an ERIC exit strategy but to prove Pennsylvania does not need to rely on questionable organizations such as ERIC to police, maintain or outsource our voter rolls.
“We also heard here that it is possible for states to independently maintain voter rolls without submitting to the dictates of private corporations steered by partisan figures or other states. This is what states are doing now to elevate election integrity, and I’m encouraged by the innovation and progress we’re seeing.
“Election integrity begins with the voter registry at every voter’s local precinct. Our counties must be given the tools to keep these lists accurate, secure and updated, and they must be held accountable for doing their jobs in a neutral and timely manner.
“We no longer need to rely on expensive, secretive groups like ERIC. Our Department of State can begin cooperating with other states right now – whether they are members of ERIC or not. I believe they should, and I hope they will.”
Wednesday’s full public hearing can be viewed here.
CONTACT: Ty McCauslin, Communications Director at 717-787-7084 or email@example.com.