In late January, Louisiana suspended its participation in a multi-state voter-roll-matching program known as ERIC, one week after rightwing conspiracy site Gateway Pundit baselessly accused ERIC of being “a left-wing voter registration drive disguised as voter roll clean up.” But if you ask Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin’s office, staff will tell you the decision had “nothing to do with” Gateway Pundit. What did the secretary base his decision on? The staff won’t say.
“We’re not having that dialogue,” said spokesman John Tobler, who said “numerous” experts had expressed concerns over “election stuff.” Who? “I am not at liberty to disclose that,” he said. What concerns? “We’re trying to get to the bottom of a major source of questions within the service provider” about “how the data moves and how it functions within their space,” said Tobler. What does that mean? Tobler won’t say, but he wants everyone to know “it’s not based on a conspiracy theory.”
In broad strokes, the Gateway Pundit story on ERIC — the Electronic Registration Information Center — asserts falsely that the organization is a front for lefty voter fraud funded by George Soros. That’s easily disproved. ERIC serves and is funded and overseen by its 30 member states, and employs a staff of three people. Those members are not “mostly blue states” as Gateway suggests, but a nearly even split. Soros has never given ERIC any funding.
Ardoin made the call unilaterally to suspend participation in ERIC on Jan. 27, saying in a press release the decision was made “amid concerns raised by citizens, government watchdog organizations and media reports.” The only media report was Gateway Pundit’s article. Tobler wouldn’t say who the watchdog organizations were, and I have seen no other public concerns expressed from watchdog groups about ERIC’s security or funding.
Ardoin had all of the tools at his disposal to fact check the Gateway Pundit article and the resulting stream of misinformed public complaints. ERIC’s bylaws say specifically that no non-member states are given access to the data, and also address how the organization is funded. Ardoin, I assume, has read the bylaws: The state enrolled in ERIC in 2014, while Ardoin was serving as first assistant secretary of state. And even if he hasn’t, Louisiana’s current commissioner of elections, Sherri Hadskey, serves on ERIC’s board, and her predecessor served as ERIC’s chair…