Home Politics G.O.P. States Abandon Group That Helps Fight Voter Fraud

G.O.P. States Abandon Group That Helps Fight Voter Fraud

G.O.P. States Abandon Group That Helps Fight Voter Fraud

Louisiana left first, followed by Alabama.

Then, in one fell swoop, Florida, Missouri and West Virginia announced Monday that they were opting out of a bipartisan network of about 30 states that help keep accurate voter rolls, a network that has faced mounting attacks from election deniers and right-wing media .

Ohio might not be far behind, according to a letter sent to the group Monday by the state’s top election official, Frank LaRose. Mr. LaRose and his colleagues in the five states that have left the group are all Republicans.

For more than a year, the Electronic Registration Information Center, a nonprofit organization called ERIC, has faced false claims from allies of former President Donald J. Trump that it is a voter registration vehicle for Democrats receiving money from George Soros habe , the liberal billionaire and philanthropist, when it was founded in 2012.

Mr. Trump even chimed in on Monday, urging all Republican governors to sever ties with the group, baselessly claiming in a post on Truth’s social media that it is “inflating the roles” of Democrats.

The Republicans, who announced their states would leave the group, cited complaints about governance issues, chief among them being emailing eligible voters who didn’t register before the federal election. They also accused the group of opening itself up to partisan influence.

In an interview on Tuesday, Jay Ashcroft, a Republican and Missouri Secretary of State, said the group has resisted his state’s calls for reform, some of which were expected to be weighed by the group’s board of directors at a meeting on March 17. He denied that the decision to withdraw was fueled by what the organization and its defenders have described as a right-wing smear campaign.

“It’s not that I was against cleaning up our electoral rolls,” Mr. Ashcroft said.

Shane Hamlin, the group’s executive director, did not comment on specific states’ grievances in an email Tuesday, but did refer to an open letter he posted on 2 his work and who has access to voter rolls.

The group’s defenders lamented the resignations, saying they weakened the group’s intelligence-sharing efforts and undermined it financially due to foregone contributions. And they said the defectors contradict the mantra of election integrity that has motivated Republicans since Mr Trump’s defeat in 2020.

Republicans haven’t always been so sour about the work of the coalition that left Louisiana in 2022.

Just last year, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis mentioned the group’s benefit to his state, describing it as useful for checking voter rolls during a news conference announcing the highly controversial arrests of about 20 people on voter fraud charges. He was then joined by Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd, a fellow Republican, who expressed a very different opinion on Monday. In an announcement that Florida is leaving the group, Mr Byrd said the state’s concerns about data security and “partisan tendencies” had not been addressed.

“That’s why we lost confidence in ERIC,” said Mr Byrd.

Representatives for Mr. DeSantis, who is considering a Republican presidential nomination, did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr. LaRose in Ohio also had a clear change of tone: After recently describing the group to reporters as imperfect but still “one of the best anti-fraud tools we have,” he also called for reform Monday and put the group on notice .

“Anything other than the reforms mentioned above will result in action up to and including our withdrawal from membership,” Mr. LaRose wrote. “I beg you to do the right thing.”

Complaints of partisanship appear to center on David Becker, a former Justice Department attorney who helped set up the group and is a non-voting board member. Mr Ashcroft said he does not believe Mr Becker, a former election program director at the Pew Charitable Trusts, who has been vocal in debunking allegations of voter fraud, including refuting Mr Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen, should be on the board.

Mr. Becker is the founder and director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, another bipartisan group that has come under attack from election denialists.

“There is truth and there are lies,” Mr Becker said in a video call with reporters on Tuesday. “I will continue to stand for the truth.”

Mr Hamlin pledged that the organization “will continue our work on behalf of our remaining member states to improve the accuracy of America’s voter lists and improve access to voter registration for all eligible citizens.”

While some Republican states are severing ties with the group, California, the nation’s most populous state, could potentially join its ranks under a bill proposed by a Democratic lawmaker. But in Texas, a Republican lawmaker introduced a bill with the opposite intent.

Still, Sam Taylor, a spokesman for the Texas Republican Secretary of State, said in an email Tuesday, “We are not currently aware of any system comparable to ERIC, but we are open to learning about other potentially viable, low-cost alternatives.”

New York, another populous state, is also not a member of the group.

Seven states founded the organization more than a decade ago. It charges new members a one-time fee of $25,000 and annual dues based in part on the voting-age population of citizens in each state. The Pew Charitable Trusts provided seed money to the group, but that money was separate from the donations it received from Mr. Soros, according to website PolitiFact.

Shenna Bellows, a Maine Democrat and Secretary of State, said in an interview Tuesday that the group has been particularly helpful in identifying voters who have died or may no longer live in the state that became a member in 2021.

“We have a lot of Mainers retiring to Florida, for example,” Ms. Bellows said.

Ms Bellows called the recent defectors “tragic” and said her office had received several inquiries from local residents who had read criticisms of the group online.

“Unfortunately, this move by our colleagues in Florida and elsewhere to leave ERIC, in part due to misinformation being propagated by voter deniers, deprives all of us of the ability to effectively clean up our voter rolls and fight voter fraud,” she said.

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2023-03-07 23:54:30