AUSTIN, Texas — In the Texas House, the elections committee heard a bill on Thursday that would withdraw the state from the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC). Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia are members of ERIC. It allows them to compare voter data to ensure individuals aren’t registered in multiple states.
What You Need To Know
- The elections committee heard a bill on Thursday that would withdraw the state from the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC)
- A new bill would put an expiration date on the state’s participation in ERIC
- Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia are members of ERIC
- ERIC allows these states to compare voter data to ensure individuals aren’t registered in multiple states
“It’s been helpful and necessary in making sure that our administration of elections is more safe and secure,” said Katya Ehresman, the voting rights program manager at Common Cause Texas.
But some Republicans say Texas should no longer be a member of this group. A bill by Houston-area Rep. Jacey Jetton would put an expiration date on the state’s participation in ERIC. Texas would need to create its own alternative cross-check program. Ehresman said other states, such as Kansas and Florida, that have left ERIC have seen worse voter list maintenance and data integrity with their own interstate verification system.
“We haven’t seen any defense of these alternatives and how they would be secure, or safe or better for our lists,” Ehresman said. “Texans should not be looking at this bill as an answer to a problem, but instead as a problem in and of itself.”
She worries that elections will be less secure if Texas withdraws from ERIC.
“It poses a danger to voter fraud, to having less integrity of our voter rolls. And the point is, we know that ERIC is tested,” Ehresman said.
Shane Hamlin, ERIC’s executive director, said the nonprofit member organization pulls information from voter registration, DMV, official death certificate and change of address data. He said it does not use information from doctors or social media, despite what some might be seeing online.
The data can be used to produce reports that identify inaccurate or out-of-date voter records, deceased voters, "eligible but not registered" voters and possible cases of illegal voting. Member states can contact voters to update their record, remove ineligible or deceased voters or contact "eligible but not registered" voters.
In fact, ERIC actually requires states to send out mailers to households that have an "eligible but not registered" voter. Some Republicans don’t like this.
“Do you have concerns that you’re sending cards to people who appear to be eligible but perhaps they’re not a citizen or you don’t realize they’re a felon in some other state that’s not part of ERIC?” asked Rep. Valoree Swanson, R-Spring.
“I do understand the concerns and criticisms there. I will say that’s one of the reasons that we household it. We don’t put a person’s name on there,” said Christina Adkins in response. She’s the legal director for the Texas Office of the Secretary of State and was the committee’s resource witness on Thursday.
Republicans also asked questions about rumors ERIC sells and shares data. Adkins testified that she’s not aware of this happening. And Hamlin said the group doesn’t do that.
“We are very careful with the data we have, and we protect it, and we do not violate the laws that govern it,” Hamlin said.
Hamlin said five states are in the process of withdrawing from ERIC. The group will have 27 members states, instead of 32, by June.
The Senate’s version of this bill was approved and has been sent to the House. The Secretary of State has also shown interest in leaving ERIC.