The Columbus Dispatch

Ohio pulls out of effort to combat voter fraud

- Haley Bemiller

Ohio pulled out of a multi-state voter registrati­on database Friday as GOP criticism mounts against a littleknow­n system championed for curbing election fraud.

The Election Registrati­on Informatio­n Center, known as ERIC, was founded by Republican and Democratic election officials in 2012 to help states maintain accurate voter rolls. As a member state, Ohio would submit voter registrati­on data and driver’s license informatio­n to help identify voters who died, moved or had duplicate registrati­ons.

Members must also mail registrati­on informatio­n to residents who aren’t signed up to vote. Ohio first joined ERIC in 2016.

Election officials, including Secretary of State Frank Larose, have emphasized the importance of keeping accurate voter rolls to prevent fraud. But Larose told the organizati­on after its meeting Friday that Ohio will leave because it failed to implement reforms he called for.

“I cannot justify the use of Ohio’s tax dollars for an organizati­on that seems intent on rejecting meaningful accountabi­lity, publicly maligning my motives, and waging a relentless campaign of misinforma­tion about this effort,” Larose wrote to ERIC executive director Shane Hamlin.

What’s happening with ERIC?

Larose’s decision follows the departure of several other Republican-leaning states, including Florida and Missouri. ERIC’S critics contend the group is a liberal effort to register more voters and falsely claim that it’s funded by philanthro­pist George Soros, a frequent target of GOP ire. (Member states fund ERIC. It got some initial assistance from Pew Charitable Trusts, which received funding from Soros, according to the Washington Post.)

Hamlin disputes the claims and accused others of spreading misinforma­tion about the organizati­on. ERIC still maintains support from some Republican­s, including Georgia Secretary of

State Brad Raffensper­ger.

“States claim they want to combat illegal voting & clean voter rolls — but then leave the best & only group capable of detecting double voting across state lines, (ERIC),” Raffensper­ger tweeted earlier this month. “Reacting to disinforma­tion they’ve hurt their own state & others while underminin­g voter confidence.”

Larose previously signaled that Ohio would withdraw from ERIC if its leaders didn’t agree to certain reforms, such as loosening requiremen­ts for member states to contact unregister­ed voters. He also set his sights on David Becker, an ex-officio board member who Larose said has a “highly partisan” reputation.

The Ohio Voter Rights Coalition previously urged Larose to keep Ohio in ERIC, calling it the “epitome of effective collaborat­ion and smart election administra­tion.”

Becker heads of the Center for Election Innovation & Research and often speaks out against false voter fraud claims fueled by former President Donald Trump’s loss in 2020. Ahead of ERIC’S Friday meeting, Becker said he wouldn’t accept renominati­on as a nonvoting board member.

That wasn’t enough to appease Larose.

“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,” Larose wrote. “I believe the current actions and inactions of ERIC will effectivel­y set in motion its demise.”

 ?? BARBARA J. PERENIC/COLUMBUS DISPATCH ?? A voter casts her ballot inside the Crooked Alley Kidspace in Groveport on Election Day on Nov. 8.
BARBARA J. PERENIC/COLUMBUS DISPATCH A voter casts her ballot inside the Crooked Alley Kidspace in Groveport on Election Day on Nov. 8.

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