by Jim McCarthy
A February 25 article in Bacon’s Rebellion, “Forget Waldo, Where’s ERIC?” by James Wyatt Whitehouse raised questions about the volunteer national election clearing house organization entitled Electronic Information Registration Center, or ERIC. The BR piece highlighted the experience of the Alabama Secretary of State:
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.’
The absence of existential staff and the existence of a virtual office prompted subsequent questions concerning ERIC’s information security and its utility to member states. As noted, Mr. Allen pulled the trigger on his state’s membership weeks before asking his questions. In 2012, Virginia was a founding member of ERIC under the administration of Governor Bob McDonnell.
Election integrity, a questionable and conspiracy-prone equitable outcome of the Big Steal fever arising from the 2020 Presidential election, was an often-cited policy objective of then-candidate Glenn Younkin in the 2021 campaign. For some, election integrity (e.g., in Florida and Texas) means increased criminal prosecution for violations over measures to increase or ease voter registration and ballot access. A primary function of ERIC was to assist member states in clearing voting rolls of the dearly departed who were cited as evidence of voter fraud largely because their names remained active on state databases.
Virginia’s withdrawal of its membership in ERIC was communicated in a letter from the state’s elections commissioner, Susan Beals, to the head of ERIC, and reported in the Virginia Mercury. The letter “listed a variety of reasons, including increased uncertainty and the declining participation of other Republican-led states, concerns about the “confidentiality of voter information” and “controversy surrounding the historical sharing of data with outside organizations leveraged for political purposes. In short, ERIC’s mandate has expanded beyond that of its initial intent – to improve the accuracy of voter rolls.” Beals also stated, “Virginia would be able to “replicate favorable ERIC functionally internally.” That phraseology resonates as high-level cyber-talk.
Not to be left out of the pile-on, Attorney General Jason Miyares’ spokesperson noted, “Miyares has expressed concerns about ERIC and supports the governor’s decision today. Our office stands ready and able to assist the department of election during this transition.”
A May 9 article in the Martinsville Bulletin, “Boundary in dispute: 35-year Patrick resident says he’s just been told he’s lived in Carroll County all along,” reported that a Patrick County resident and voter for 35 years has received notice that he’s no longer a resident of the county and is ineligible to vote in the Blue Ridge District. The long-term voter told the Bulletin, “There is some purging going on in Patrick County. I have a letter dated April 21 from voter registration saying I don’t live in Patrick County anymore. I’ve been living and voting here for 35 years.”
The article further notes, “the West Piedmont Planning District gathered information on coordinates of residences and passed it on to the Virginia Department of Elections saying some people don’t live in the county they say they are in.”
The Patrick – now Carroll voter – stated he “wrestled with Virginia’s online registration website, referred to in the letter he received, and found it to be complicated, concluding, “Senior citizens are not going to do well on this registration website. You should try following up with your tax map and getting corrections on those maps.” Notwithstanding, Virginia is poised to go it alone in achieving election integrity or its analog.
AG Miyares and Susan Beals will be occupied by a whole lot of transition activity replicating “favorable functionally internally.” Having been led by Alabama and eager to join the “declining participation of other Republican-led states,’ election integrity in the Commonwealth appears to be following the popular rallying cry, “Where we go one, we go all.”
Jim McCarthy, a former New York attorney, resides in Northern Virginia.