Included in the North Carolina Senate budget proposal is repealing the State Board of Elections’ (NCSBE) authorization to join the Electronic Registration Information Center, Inc. (ERIC).
ERIC was created in 2012 as a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization created to help election officials maintain their voter rolls. However, an April study from Judicial Watch indicated that there were problems within ERIC including allegations of a Democrat bias and data sharing with left-leaning organizations.
Run by a committee of state election officials from around the U.S., ERIC is funded and governed by states that choose to join. According to its website, ERIC was created to help election officials maintain more accurate voter rolls, detect possible illegal voting, and help states reach out to potentially eligible but not yet registered individuals with information on how best to register to vote.
Membership had grown to 32 states and Washington, D.C. However, several states have dropped their membership citing the potential for corruption.
North Carolina was authorized by the legislature to join but has not. The Senate’s proposal would repeal that authorization and prohibit the NCSBE from joining ERIC.
“Joining ERIC would have helped North Carolina county election boards remove those no longer eligible to vote from voter rolls. That would have made our elections more secure,” said Dr. Andy Jackson of the John Locke Foundation. “Unfortunately, the system lacks transparency in the process and personnel involved in handling the massive amounts of data it gets from member states. ERIC has so far resisted calls for reform. That resistance makes the reversal on joining the program necessary.”
The ERIC membership agreement allows states to use and share government data from elections offices, the Department of Motor Vehicles, and the Social Security Administration to remove dead voters from the rolls, find people who illegally vote twice in every federal election, and register eligible voters when they move. However critics of the organization say ERIC is also sharing data with the Center for Election Innovation and Research, (CEIR) a group now run by ERIC founder, attorney David Becker.
CEIR helped distribute hundreds of millions of dollars in grants, better known as Zuck Bucks, that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan donated to election officials during the 2020 election cycle. Zuckerberg is also a primary funder of CEIR.
ERIC has been deemed a success in states like Maryland, which was able to identify 66,000 potentially deceased voters and 778,000 people who may have moved out of state since 2013. Nearly 100,000 voters no longer eligible to vote in Georgia have been removed based on information from ERIC.
But the risks have outweighed the benefits for some states that have decided to end their partnership with the organization as Republicans coining Becker a “liberal activist,” raising concerns that ERIC was helping Democrats.
State officials from Florida, Missouri, West Virginia, Louisiana, Iowa, Ohio, and Alabama have already decided to part ways.
Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed Senate legislation in Dec. 2021, that would have banned the use of private money in the administration of elections.
Becker, a former U.S. Justice Department lawyer who served in both the Clinton and Bush administrations, holds one of two non-voting seats on the board. The other seat has been vacant. He reportedly told ERIC that he wouldn’t accept re-nomination to the board in March, but member states decided to eliminate both non-voting seats.
Another issue for some states was that they wanted to see some changes, including dropping a requirement for members to mail notices to eligible people but not registered to vote. Members from ERIC said they gave the requests some serious thought but ultimately decided to maintain the program’s current requirements.
The Senate’s budget proposal moved through committees on Tuesday and was slated to face votes on Wednesday.