Iowa Secretary of State recommends leaving tool that creates more accurate voter rolls

Published: Mar. 28, 2023 at 8:52 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate (R) is recommending the state leave a bipartisan nonprofit called the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), which helps states create a more accurate voter role by identifying people who have died or moved between states.

Pate has previously praised the tool as recently as February 2023 because it helped identify more than 1,300 deceased voters. According to NPR, he also called the tool “a godsend” in February 2023. However, he recommended leaving the group after a handful of different Republican-led states left the nonprofit along with as well as a statement from former President Donald Trump (R) urging states to leave as well.

Pate said he was recommended to leave the group because there weren’t enough states left to make the tool useful in a written statement on twitter.

“Ultimately, the departure of several key states and today’s vote is going to impact the ability for ERIC to be an effective tool for the State of Iowa,” he said. “...Clean, accurate voter lists are critical to running secure elections and the loss of those states’ data makes participation in ERIC no longer valuable to ERIC.”

Politico reported Ohio’s Secretary of State tried to change the group’s rules to have the option to not take certain reports from the group like a report identifying eligible but unregistered voters. The effort failed, according to Politico, on the same day Iowa’s Secretary of State’s Office announced it would recommend leaving the group.

Jacob Holck, who is the digital manager for Iowa’s Secretary of State, said states left ERIC because the organization was telling them how to run their elections instead of letting states choose the appropriate ERIC tools that worked best within their state. He also said there are other tools the Secretary of State’s Office has to maintain Iowa’s voter registration list.

Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert (D) said he believed the decision is poor and confusing because he doesn’t know of many tools allowing states to compare voter lists, which finds potential problems. He said it’s frustrating after the legislature made changes to election rules and lawmakers justified those changes with an increase in election integrity.

“Republicans talk about the voter roles, the voter integrity, and making sure voter roles are clean,” Weipert said. “Then, why are we pulling out of a tool to make sure voter roles are clean.”

Linn County Auditor Joel Miller (D) said he has used the tool to help his office and said he also believes the issue is over the group’s goal to also help register voters. Miller, who lost the election for Secretary of State, ran on the issue of making it easier to register to vote.

Shane Hamlin, who is the Executive Director for ERIC, said in an open letter it is the target of misinformation and is never connected to any state’s voter registration system. It also said members retain complete control over their voter rolls and they use the reports we provide in ways that comply with federal and state laws.

“We analyze voter registration and motor vehicle department data, provided by our members through secure channels, along with official federal death data and change of address data, in order to provide our members with various reports,” Hamlin said. “They use these reports to update their voter rolls, remove ineligible voters, investigate potential illegal voting, or provide voter registration information to individuals who may be eligible to vote,”

Alabama’s Secretary of State Wes Allen (R) left the nonprofit in January because the private organization had access to driver’s license numbers, contact information and partial social security numbers of people under 18-years-old. Flordia’s Secretary of State also cited privacy concerns when he announced leaving ERIC in March.

“Providing the private information of Alabama citizens, including underage minors, to an out-of-state organization is troubling to me and to people that I heard from as I traveled the state for the last 20 months,” he said in a press release. “That is no longer a concern because the data uploads of that information from Alabama to ERIC is over.”

Secretary of State Paul Pate (R) said participating states utilize a cryptographic one-way hash to protect personal information, including date of birth, Social Security number, and driver’s license number in July 2018 when the state joined the group.