So again, Justice Breyer’s question reflects what states have been going through with regard to list maintenance. Despite the false choice often presented by partisans, states don’t want a list maintenance procedure that’s overbroad, leading to false positives and disenfranchised voters. But they also cannot simply abdicate their responsibility and do no list maintenance, leaving large numbers of records on the lists even though those voters have moved or died. So, if a state can’t do too much maintenance, or too little, what’s a state to do? How are they supposed to find out who really moved or died, while keeping those who were still eligible on the lists?
Up until recently, that question was nearly unanswerable. Many will say, “just look at the death lists, or postal lists,” as counsel suggested yesterday, but that demonstrates a lack of understanding about how data is used. Matching “John Smith” or “Maria Rodriguez” from a voter list to any other list has been exceedingly difficult to do with any accuracy. Until 2012.
That’s when the Electronic Registration Information Center, or ERIC, was founded. I led the creation of ERIC, in partnership with several states representing both parties, who all wanted to solve this problem outside of the usual partisan wrangling. ERIC is a sophisticated data center that uses state of the art software to compare state data (including voter lists and motor vehicles data) along with information from the postal service and Social Security Administration (SSA). As a result, states learn whether someone has moved in-state (usually as a result of a more recent DMV address), has moved cross-state (either because they registered to vote or applied for a license in another ERIC state), or has died (as indicated in SSA records). Thus, ERIC answers the exact questions the Justices were asking during the debate….