GOP bill would remove Arizona from ERIC, the database designed to combat voter fraud
The multistate collaboration has become the target of unfounded conspiracies by conservatives nationwide
Right-wing protesters gather outside the Maricopa County Elections Department on Nov. 4, 2020, demanding that all ballots for Donald Trump be counted. Inside the building, election workers were busy counting hundreds of thousands of ballots. Photo by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror
Following in the footsteps of six conservative-led states, Senate Republicans want to pull Arizona’s membership from a multistate coalition that aids in cleaning voter rolls, following false claims that the coalition is part of a liberal conspiracy to rig elections.
The Electronic Registration Information Center, also known as ERIC, is a nonprofit formed in 2012 that aims to assist states in improving the accuracy of their voter rolls and increase access to voter registration information through the sharing of voter registration information among member states. It was created by seven states with a mixture of Republican and Democratic leadership, so that the states could assist each other in identifying voters who had moved or died.
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Since fringe conservative media, like The Gateway Pundit, began last year to publish stories falsely accusing ERIC of involvement in a liberal conspiracy to steal elections, Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, Missouri, Ohio and West Virginia have all either pulled out of ERIC or announced plans to do so.
Minus those that have already pulled out, ERIC still has 27 member states, along with the District of Columbia.
A last-minute amendment to Fountain Hills Republican Sen. John Kavanagh’s Senate Bill 1135 would essentially set Arizona on a path to leave ERIC, as well, even though its sponsor says it would put that decision in the hands of ERIC itself.
In its original form, SB1135 focused on new regulations and procedures for early voting. But the amendment would preclude the state from being a member of a multistate voter registration organization that requires members to provide information from voter registration records or driver’s licenses “that is otherwise required to be confidential.”
That information includes full or partial social security or driver’s license numbers or any records from the Arizona Department of Transportation.
The bill would also ban Arizona from being a member of an organization that requires the mailing of voter registration forms to people who are not registered to vote.
Both the sharing of voter registration information and periodic mailings of voter registration information to people who aren’t registered to vote and are possibly eligible are membership requirements of ERIC.
Kavanagh told the Senate on March 20 that sharing voter registration and driver’s license info was a violation of Arizona law.
“Arizona can still work with ERIC, but we can’t violate state statute,” Kavanagh said.
Sen. Priya Sundareshan, a Tucson Democrat, pointed out on March 20 that the bill seemed to essentially prohibit Arizona from being a member of ERIC, even if the bill didn’t say that outright.
Kavanagh answered that, if ERIC stopped requiring member states to share private voter information, the bill would still allow Arizona to be a member.
“It would be up to ERIC,” he said.
Sundareshan retorted that it seemed confusing to her that Republicans would back a bill limiting membership in ERIC, an organization that they had previously advocated for membership in and one of the strongest safeguards against voter fraud that election officials have available.
“It’s a little baffling that we now seek to remove access to that tool which is helpful in maintaining current and up-to-date voter rolls,” Sundareshan said.
When Arizona joined ERIC in 2018, it had the backing of all 15 counties and the Republican secretary of state, Michele Reagan.
“Our participation in ERIC will decrease provisional ballots, as well as reduce the number of voters on the rolls who don’t live in Arizona anymore,” Reagan said in a statement at the time. “Our counties work hard to ensure the registration database is accurate, and this tool will enhance their ability to keep our data as accurate as possible.”
During a Senate floor debate of SB1135 on March 21, Tempe Democrat Juan Mendez argued that membership in ERIC helped Arizona do one of the things that some conservatives have been asking for: clean up the voter rolls.
“These were sound voter roll practices from diverse states,” Mendez said. “This is how we prosecuted people who dared to vote double, over state lines.”
The Senate approved the bill on March 21, by a vote of 16-13 along party lines. The bill has little chance of actually becoming law, since even if it is passed by the House, it will likely be vetoed by Gov. Katie Hobbs, who lauded Arizona’s participation in ERIC while secretary of state.
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