Ohio pulls out of voter registration database targeted by conservative election skeptics
Ohio pulled out of a multi-state voter registration database Friday as GOP criticism mounts against a little-known system championed for curbing election fraud.
The Election Registration Information Center, known as ERIC, was founded by Republican and Democratic election officials in 2012 to help states maintain accurate voter rolls. As a member state, Ohio would submit voter registration data and driver's license information to help identify voters who died, moved or had duplicate registrations.
Members must also mail registration information to residents who aren't signed up to vote. Ohio first joined ERIC in 2016.
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Election officials, including Secretary of State Frank LaRose, have emphasized the importance of keeping accurate voter rolls to prevent fraud. But LaRose told the organization after its meeting Friday that Ohio will leave because it failed to implement reforms he called for.
"I cannot justify the use of Ohio’s tax dollars for an organization that seems intent on rejecting meaningful accountability, publicly maligning my motives, and waging a relentless campaign of misinformation about this effort," LaRose wrote to ERIC executive director Shane Hamlin.
What's happening with ERIC?
LaRose's decision follows the departure of several other Republican-leaning states, including Florida and Missouri. ERIC's critics contend the group is a liberal effort to register more voters and falsely claim that it's funded by philanthropist George Soros, a frequent target of GOP ire. (Member states fund ERIC. It got some initial assistance from Pew Charitable Trusts, which received funding from Soros, according to the Washington Post.)
Hamlin disputes the claims and accused others of spreading misinformation about the organization. ERIC still maintains support from some Republicans, including Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
"States claim they want to combat illegal voting & clean voter rolls — but then leave the best & only group capable of detecting double voting across state lines, (ERIC)," Raffensperger tweeted earlier this month. "Reacting to disinformation they’ve hurt their own state & others while undermining voter confidence."
States claim they want to combat illegal voting & clean voter rolls - but then leave the best & only group capable of detecting double voting across state lines, @ericstates_info. Reacting to disinformation they’ve hurt their own state & others while undermining voter confidence. pic.twitter.com/cggmrXPtut
— GA Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (@GaSecofState) March 8, 2023
LaRose previously signaled that Ohio would withdraw from ERIC if its leaders didn't agree to certain reforms, such as loosening requirements for member states to contact unregistered voters. He also set his sights on David Becker, an ex-officio board member who LaRose said has a "highly partisan" reputation.
The Ohio Voter Rights Coalition previously urged LaRose to keep Ohio in ERIC, calling it the "epitome of effective collaboration and smart election administration."
Becker heads of the Center for Election Innovation & Research and often speaks out against false voter fraud claims fueled by former President Donald Trump's loss in 2020. Ahead of ERIC's Friday meeting, Becker said he wouldn't accept renomination as a non-voting board member.
That wasn't enough to appease LaRose.
"You have chosen to double-down on poor strategic decisions, which have only resulted in the transformation of a previously bipartisan organization to one that appears to favor only the interests of one political party," LaRose wrote. "I believe the current actions and inactions of ERIC will effectively set in motion its demise."
Haley BeMiller is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.
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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Ohio pulls out of ERIC amid criticism by Republicans, election deniers