Ohio on Friday announced it was the latest Republican-led state to pull out of a key election partnership that has become the focal point of conspiracies on the far-right.
The Ohio secretary of state, Frank LaRose — a Republican who is widely considered to be eyeing a run for U.S. Senate in 2024 — sent a letter to the executive director of the Electronic Registration Information Center, or ERIC, announcing the decision soon after the bipartisan compact’s member states held a meeting Friday.
“ERIC has chosen repeatedly to ignore demands to embrace reforms that would bolster confidence in its performance, encourage growth in its membership, and ensure not only its present stability but also its durability,” LaRose wrote. “Rather, you have chosen to double-down on poor strategic decisions, which have only resulted in the transformation of a previously bipartisan organization to one that appears to favor only the interests of one political party.”ERIC is a multi-state partnership that experts across the political spectrum say is the only reliable, secure way for states to share voter data with each other. The coalition allows states to know when voters move or die, so they can keep their lists of registered voters more up to date.
Just last month, in an interview with NPR, LaRose called ERIC “one of the best tools that we have for maintaining the accuracy of our voter files.”
But beginning last year, far-right media began to target the organization, arguing that it was actually a way Democrats were rigging elections in their favor.
The groundswell continued, and Ohio and other Republican states began pushing for changes to ERIC’s membership agreement and bylaws, to lessen what member states would be required to do. One key desire was to no longer be required to reach out to eligible but unregistered voters, as ERIC’s current governing documents mandate.
LaRose in his letter Friday reiterated his desire to permit “member states to utilize ERIC’s data-sharing services ‘a la carte,’ in the manner which they believe best serves their local interests.”