April 3, 2023
Sam Oliker-Friedland
Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Florida’s move to withdraw from election coalition is very shortsighted

At the Institute for Responsive Government, we try to remind election policymakers that election security and access to the ballot are not tradeoffs; when policies are designed well, they go hand in hand. But recently Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd announced the state’s withdrawal from the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a bipartisan coalition of election administrators who keep voter rolls accurate. The center is the latest pro-voter organization to face scrutiny over baseless misinformation that undermines the integrity of state and lo-
cal elections.

The decision by Florida, along with four other states, to withdraw from the Electronic Registration Information Center is not just a detriment to their constituents – this shortsighted decision is also a step backward that will cost Florida taxpayers money and make it more challenging and costly to maintain accurate voter rolls across the state and the entire country.

The members of the Electronic Registration Information Center use reliable cross-state and cross-agency data to identify ineligible voters on the voter rolls. The center also helps member states keep voter rolls accurate and complete as voters move or pass away.

Conservative organizations like the Heritage Foundation continuously praise the Electronic Registration Information Center for its ability to keep the voting rolls across its membership states clean and up to date. Even Gov. Ron DeSantis praised the center when he first announced Florida’s membership in 2019, stating outright that “joining ERIC is the right thing to do” and that more accurate voter rolls “will reduce the potential for voter fraud.”

It’s baffling how we arrived here.

The Electronic Registration Information Center is not just the most effective tool election administrators have for identifying ineligible voters – it’s one of the only tools. Election administrators in non-member states have no reliable fallback to ensure that their voter rolls are accurate, and they have no better way to flag voters who have moved out-of-state, died
or already voted there.

When a state withdraws from the Electronic Registration Information Center, its election administrators will be forced to pay more taxpayer money for less reliable data. The center is neither connected to any state system nor part of any national effort to boost voter participation. It’s simply a bipartisan group of bureaucrats doing what they always do: keeping our elections secure.

Not only does a system like the Electronic Regis tration Information Center help to make government more responsive for all Americans, but maintaining accurate voter rolls also helps build confidence in election outcomes. This is a critical function at a moment when our democracy remains so fragile.

The withdrawal by Florida and other states is a setback for election security in those states and nationwide. It will require election officials in those states to re-create a system to clean and update voter rolls that yields results as accurate, complete and efficient. In other words, this disinformation campaign may cost taxpayers a lot of money simply to arrive back at the same result.

It is time to set aside the partisan bickering, and to move forward under one goal: fortify our democracy with the twin pillars of security and access.

Sam Oliker-Friedland is the executive director of the Institute for Responsive Government. Previously, he was a voting rights litigator at the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division under both the Obama and Trump administrations.