In a disappointing display of misguided priorities, Florida withdrew from the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) on March 6, 2023. As a nonpartisan state election resource established in 2012, ERIC was designed to improve the accuracy of state voter rolls and help register more eligible Americans to vote. By sharing data, ERIC enables state election officials to identify and remove individuals who have died or moved to other states. With 30 states and the District of Columbia participating, the data sharing facilitated by ERIC has been instrumental in identifying and prosecuting individuals who vote in multiple states, including Florida.
It is incomprehensible that Governor Ron DeSantis has chosen to withdraw Florida from ERIC, the only tool available for crosschecking voter data. ERIC’s unique ability to access key state records, such as those maintained by motor vehicle departments, has made it indispensable in tracking individuals’ movements across states and accurately identifying voters with similar names. For eleven years, ERIC has been utilized by both Republican and Democratic-controlled states, with election officials across the political spectrum recognizing its importance in maintaining accurate voter rolls. Despite this proven track record, Florida did not join ERIC until 2019 under Governor DeSantis, and now, alarmingly, has decided to withdraw.
However, the persistent spread of misinformation has marred the integrity of American elections. Conspiracy theories surrounding the 2020 election continue to fester, and in early January 2023, a far-right website, The Gateway Pundit, published misinformation about ERIC’s funding and origins. As conservative doubts grew and ERIC leadership attempted to correct the record, activists in some states pressured Republican officials to withdraw their membership. By February 2023, several states, including Florida, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, West Virginia, and Alabama, had withdrawn from the program.
This failure in election integrity is evident in Florida’s recent withdrawal from ERIC. Not everyone in Florida agrees with the Governor’s decision. In a recent interview, Pinellas County’s deputy supervisor of elections, Dustin Chase, acknowledged the political side to the fight over ERIC but emphasized its importance as “a tool we used to maintain integrity in the voter rolls.” He added, “We’re looking to the legislature to tell us what’s next … in order for us to maintain the voter rolls.”
The 2023 administrative election bill does not address data collection from other states for maintaining accurate voter rolls. Without ERIC, there is no other data system that compares voter rolls to determine if voters have moved or died, leaving the election process vulnerable to inaccuracies. Governor Ron DeSantis’s decision to pull out of ERIC was a political stunt and a failure to prioritize real election integrity.
It is deeply concerning that some elected officials have fueled conspiracy theories about ERIC’s funding and purpose, jeopardizing the integrity of Florida elections. This move reveals that partisan politics are being prioritized over the security of our democracy. ERIC is a nonpartisan state resource that helps build and maintain confidence in our elections. It is essential that governors, secretaries of state, and election officials put election security before politics and rejoin the Electronic Registration Information Center program.