by James Wyatt Whitehead, V
In 2012, seven states, including Virginia, formed the Electronic Registration and Information, Inc. (ERIC), with assistance from the Pew Charitable Trusts. Today, ERIC’s membership has risen to 32 states and the District of Columbia. ERIC’s mission is to assist states in maintaining accurate voting rolls.
Every 60 days, states that are members of ERIC send voting roll data to ERIC for analysis. Reports are generated and returned to the states who can then take any necessary action. The data sent appear to be the garden variety of voter information one would expect: who has moved in? Who has moved out? Who has died?
Security of the data seems to be of high importance to the leaders of ERIC. Membership in ERIC requires a one-time fee, plus annual dues. The budget requirements for ERIC are modest. What is not to like? ERIC provides a useful service to state election officials. Accurate voting rolls advance the common interests of all citizens.
On February 15, 2023, Alabama Secretary of State Wes Allen paid a visit to the ERIC headquarters in Washington, D.C. It is important to note that Mr. Allen withdrew Alabama from participation in ERIC just a few weeks before his visit. Mr. Allen had this to say about his visit to the Connecticut Avenue headquarters of ERIC, Inc.: “I was in DC for a meeting of the National Association of Secretaries of States and, since I was in town, I went to see the ERIC Headquarters. What I found was that there was no ERIC headquarters at that address. There were no employees. There were no servers. There was no ERIC presence of any kind. Instead, I found a virtual office that is rentable by the day. What it was missing was people, servers, and any sign of the ERIC team.”
Wes Allen asked some important questions about ERIC that deserve an answer.
“Before I took office, Alabama transmitted the personal information of millions of our citizens to this private organization for the past several years. That information is stored on a server somewhere but we do not know where. There is no ERIC operation at the location they claim is their office,” Allen said. “A lot of personal data and taxpayer money has been transferred to ERIC. Where is that data? Where are the employees? Where are the offices? Where are the computers?”
ERIC collects the following voter data from member states:
1. All name fields
2. All address fields
3. Driver’s license or state ID number
4. Last four digits of Social Security number
5. Date of birth
6. Activity dates as defined by the Board of Directors
7. Current record status
8. Affirmative documentation of citizenship
9. The title/type of affirmative documentation of citizenship presented
10. Phone number
11. E-mail address or other electronic contact method
ERIC knows a great deal about the citizens of Virginia, but we know nothing about ERIC’s location. The Commissioner of Virginia’s Department of Elections, Susan Beals, is a board member of ERIC. Maybe she can tell the public: Where is ERIC?
James Wyatt Whitehead V is a retired Loudoun County history teacher.