SADOW: Kudos To Ardoin For Dumping The Sketchy ERIC System

Lost in all the controversy about reapportionment in Louisiana, another election-related matter cropped up right before that special session began, with Republican Sec. of State Kyle Ardoin handling the matter appropriately.

Ardoin withdrew the state from the Electronic Registration Information Center in January, citing questions about the confidentiality of the data involved. The organization serves as a hub for data sharing among over 30 states regarding their voter registration records.

Established a decade ago ostensibly as a clearinghouse for states to check on voter roll accuracy including duplicate registrations, it came under question initially because its seed money came from leftist activist George Soros’ Open Society Foundation and those seven startup states included mostly those governed then by the left. Moreover, it appeared to be a response to the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, established years earlier comprised initially of midwestern states but which expanded to over half the states by the time Louisiana had joined ERIC.

By then, Interstate Crosscheck had come under controversy, in part for being too good at its job. Concentrating mainly on vetting possible duplicates, its parameters tended to pick up a number of false positives, which would trigger states to send confirmation queries to the addresses associated with the name in question. This somehow was considered “discriminatory” by leftist organizations, even though names wouldn’t be removed as long as mail in that name was deliverable at that address.

The left stewed about the group, especially as it had come under the patronage of GOP former Kansas Sec. of State Kris Kobach, who advocated for aggressive state efforts at maintaining accurate rolls. And it got its chance to wipe out the group because of sloppiness on Interstate Crosscheck’s part that allowed data breaches, leading to suits that effectively ended it.

Interestingly, ERIC suffers from a related difficulty. Using state-supplied data such as motor vehicle license and identification cards, it requires that members contact unregistered and presumably eligible people to vote, but doesn’t ask for regular scrubbing of rolls. Worse, it prohibits transmitting information about any record found to be that of a non-citizen, which could perpetuate voter fraud.

However, worst of all the group has hazy guidelines on data sharing. With a lack of transparency, it’s unknown who has access to the data which could end up being used for nefarious purposes.

Or partisan purposes. The founder was David Becker, who litigated in and out of government for a number of causes favored by the political left, and founded the Center for Election Innovation and Research. That organization was one of two dispensers of private funds claimed to improve turnout, but where these ended up targeting areas and individuals more likely to vote for Democrats. Louisiana, after cautioning by Republican Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry that accepting such funds would violate state law because these skirted the appropriations process, became the only state where no government pursued such grants.

All of this leads to too many doubts about what would happen to Louisiana swapped data, who might use it to what ends, and whether the state as part of ERIC makes much contribution to voter roll integrity or gets much of value to pursue maximizing that goal. Thus, Ardoin wisely suspended operations.

But he maintains open channels to it, which may lead to eventual reintegration with it. That’s a worthy goal if the group addresses satisfactorily the concerns he in part expressed. That is, (1) change bylaws to require states to use ERIC data to scrub rolls every 90 days, (2) delete the requirement that states must contact the unregistered to register as this has nothing to do with election roll integrity and is something the individuals themselves if they truly care about elections should do, (3) remove the prohibition on communicating information about non-citizens – who by definition would register illegally – to other members, and (4) add a stricture that seals off data collected from any entity except members.

Louisiana can benefit from an arrangement that tags potentially illegal voters, but not if that vital task is submerged below efforts to harvest registrations, if not votes if the information falls into the wrong hands. Until ERIC proves it means genuine election integrity business, the state should save the tens of thousands of dollars it pays the group in annual dues by staying out of it.

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