KIM CHANDLER Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama will pull out of a 32-state voter registration partnership, the new secretary of state announced Wednesday, a decision that drew sharp criticism from his outgoing counterpart.
Republican Wes Allen, who will be sworn in as Secretary of State in January, said he sent a letter announcing the state would end its participation in the Electronic Registration Information Center, a nonprofit organization made up of 32 states and the District of Columbia. which allows states to exchange voter registration data. The database was created as a tool to keep accurate voter rolls and fight fraud by letting states know when someone moves, dies or registers elsewhere, but has sometimes become the target of conservative anger and conspiracy theories.
Allen cited privacy concerns as a reason for the withdrawal. During the campaign, the Republican promised to withdraw from ERIC.
“As I’ve been touring the state over the last year and a half, I’ve heard repeatedly that people want us out of ERIC. They do not want their personal information or their children’s personal information sent to this out-of-state group,” Allen said in a statement from his campaign. “I promised I would end our participation and I’m taking these steps to do so.”
Secretary of State John Merrill, also a Republican, issued an office statement saying that ERIC provides the information needed to maintain electoral rolls and has identified suspected instances of voter fraud. He said he questions the decision to retire.
“Alabama uses ERIC to maintain a clean and accurate voter roll. We have not experienced a single negative issue as a result of our relationship with ERIC,” the statement said.
Merrill’s office said “dishonest or misinformed” stories had been circulated about the system, including that it was funded by liberal billionaire George Soros. He said states do not have access to other states’ voter registration and driver’s license records — or access to the Social Security Administration’s Death Master Index — but ERIC does, and that it is a critical tool in maintaining voter records.
“So if Wes Allen plans to remove Alabama from its relationship with ERIC, how does he intend to maintain election security without access to the necessary data, legal authority, or the ability to conduct proper voter roll maintenance?” Merrills shared office with.
The issue of participation in the ERIC has been raised in at least one other country. The Republican nominee for Arizona Secretary of State said during the campaign that he would retire from the ERIC if elected, but he lost. Louisiana withdrew earlier this year.
Another Republican advocated joining the partnership.
Georgia’s Foreign Minister Brad Raffensperger, also a Republican, proudly stated in blunt speeches that the state had joined ERIC. Raffensperger said in 2019 that this was a huge step forward for the integrity of Georgia’s electoral rolls.
Allen said he will send a formal resignation letter after being sworn in on Jan. 16.
According to the organization, the following states currently participate in ERIC: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey , New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin. The District of Columbia is also a member.
<&rdpEm>Associated Press reporters Jonathan Cooper and Jeff Amy contributed to this report. Cooper reported from Phoenix and Amy reported from Atlanta.&rdpEm>
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