AUSTIN, Texas — A North Texas Democrat effectively blocked a bill that would have allowed Texas to end participation in a national voter verification system. After a check of the House rules, Texas Republicans appeared to have no choice but to withdraw one of their own bills.
What You Need To Know
- Rep. Mihaela Plesa, D-Plano, blocked a bill that would have allowed Texas to end participation with the Electronic Registration Information Center, also known as ERIC
- Republicans must now withdraw the GOP-led bill
- Officials have previously said that ERIC is a tried and tested interstate system to ensure voters are not registered in more than one state
- While there was a lack of evidence, conservative activists across the country have questioned ERIC’s funding and security
Rep. Mihaela Plesa, D-Plano, pointed out a rule violation that prevented debate on the GOP-written bill to force Texas to cut ties with the Electronic Registration Information Center, also known as ERIC.
Secretary of State officials have previously said that ERIC is a tried and tested interstate system to ensure voters are not registered in more than one state. Texas and more than two dozen other states have been members of the coalition.
“We know that ERIC has ensured that our state has the most secure election system because of this program, and I’m really proud to come from Collin County, who was told by the Secretary of State that we had the most secure elections in the state,” Plesa told Spectrum News.
While there was a lack of evidence, conservative activists across the country have questioned ERIC’s funding and security. It has led to a number of Republican-led states announcing they would leave the program.
Plesa called it “dangerous rhetoric” and that it was “perpetuating the idea that our elections are not safe and secure.”
Rep. Jacey Jetton, R-Katy, sponsored the bill in the House, and told Spectrum News that he was disappointed but there are nearly two weeks left in the legislative session.
Texas Republicans seem intent on setting parameters for maintaining voter lists and limiting certain organizations from sending out mailers.
“It’s primarily that is outside the role of ERIC,” said Jetton. “We don’t need an outside organization that’s partially funded by state dollars, but also by private dollars, mailing into states when it comes to voter registration or any other efforts.”
“Whether that’s ERIC or another system, we want to make sure that we’re getting a return on investment and only pertinent information is shared with whatever voter registration system we use,” he continued.
For now, some voting rights advocates are cautiously optimistic after the legislative maneuver. They still have bad memories from when the state bungled a voter roll cleanup back in 2019 that mistakenly flagged thousands of voters as noncitizens when it was not the case.
“Using a tested program and innovating that tested program is better than letting Texans election systems be up to the will of partisan actors, or untested and private vendors we haven’t even seen play out in other states, let alone in elections the size and scale of Texas,” said Katya Ehresman, voting rights program manager for Common Cause Texas.
The office of the Texas Secretary of State Jane Nelson said its staff members are actively researching options for a voter registration crosscheck program. Nelson is a former Republican state senator from Flower Mound and the office says they are ready to follow any legislative direction on this issue.