Michael Morse for Slate:
Now right-wing groups are plotting to weaken ERIC and revive Crosscheck’s faulty approach. J. Christian Adams has peddled the false claim that ERIC is a “smokescreen” for Democratic efforts to turn out the vote, which former President Donald Trump has parroted.
Against this backdrop, the exiting states have offered few substantive explanations for their sudden departure. Their ostensible criticism of ERIC’s required outreach to unregistered voters is at best ironic. Although ERIC’s efforts to increase voter registration are laudable, they are not particularly effective, and there’s no evidence they are partisan. A better understanding for the sudden about-face is cynical: Less accurate, siloed voter registration lists make it easier to promote the specter of fraud.
ERIC is now staring down a difficult political challenge. In my forthcoming article, I propose multiple ways Congress could fortify and expand “democracy’s bureaucracy.”
For example, take the federal framework for list maintenance. Federal law imposes no substantive standard for how election officials should determine which voters have potentially moved. Voters don’t typically tell election officials when they move. So, election officials take a variety of approaches—for example, some check if election mail is returned as undeliverable, some check whether voters filed a change-of-address request with the U.S. Postal Service, and others rely on ERIC. Instead of establishing a substantive standard for reliable evidence that a voter has moved, federal law relies on a series of procedural protections to guard voters against immediate disenfranchisement—election officials must first send a notice to the voter and, if the voter doesn’t respond, wait two federal general elections before canceling their registration. Since almost no voters respond to the notice, voter registration lists grow bloated during the roughly four-year waiting period.
Broadly speaking, a revised federal approach could trade some procedural protections for more substantive standards. For example, Congress could shorten the waiting period if election officials obtain reliable evidence that a voter actually moved, or eliminate the waiting period entirely if election officials coordinate to update the voter’s registration. A state might then want to join (or stay in) ERIC, perhaps with some conditions, in order to more quickly (but still reliably) cancel outdated registrations.