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Democrats assail Glenn Youngkin for pulling Virginia out of bipartisan voting system

The Republican-run administration pulled out of the Electronic Registration Information Center, citing right-wing conspiracy theories.

By Josh Israel - May 15, 2023
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Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin is shown a voter receipt slip while touring the Loudoun County County Office of Elections, in Leesburg, Va., Sept. 20, 2022.
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin is shown a voter receipt slip while touring the Loudoun County County Office of Elections, in Leesburg, Va., Sept. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)

Virginia Democrats are accusing Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin and his administration of undermining voting rights and simultaneously making elections less secure. The reason: his administration’s decision to pull out of a bipartisan interstate voting group, siding with former President Donald Trump and right-wing conspiracy theorists who oppose the effort.

Created in 2012, the Electronic Registration Information Center, commonly known as ERIC, is a nonprofit organization established and run by state election officials to track and compile reports on when voters change their registration from one jurisdiction to another or when they die. Member states can then use ERIC’s reports to update their voter rolls. According to its website, the organization’s mission is “to help states improve the accuracy of America’s voter rolls, increase access to voter registration for all eligible citizens, reduce election costs, and increase efficiencies in elections.”

On March 6, Trump posted on his social media platform, Truth Social: “All Republican Governors should immediately pull out of ERIC, the terrible Voter Registration System that ‘pumps the rolls’ for Democrats and does nothing to clean them up. It is a fools game for Republicans….And while these Governors are at it, GO TO SAME DAY VOTING, ALL PAPER BALLOTS, AND VOTER I.D. (VOTER IDENTIFICATION). Mail-In Voting ONLY for FAR AWAY MILITARY and those that are VERY SICK! PROBLEMS ON ELECTION’S SOLVED!”

Virginia was a founding member of ERIC under Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell.

In a May 11 letter to ERIC Executive Director Shane Hamlin, Youngkin’s hand-picked Department of Elections Commissioner Susan Beals cited several reasons for the state’s withdrawal, including increased costs due to other GOP-led states withdrawing, incomplete participation by neighboring states, “Increasing concerns regarding stewardship, maintenance, privacy, and confidentiality of voter information,” and “Controversy surrounding the historical sharing of data with outside organizations leveraged for political purposes.”

At a press conference on Monday, Democratic state legislators framed the decision to withdraw from the ERIC as the Youngkin administration’s latest attack on voting rights.

“Today, our fundamental right to vote is under attack. Just recently, Glenn Youngkin and Virginia Republicans unleashed their latest attempt to undermine our democracy and make it harder for Virginians to vote,” said Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Mamie Locke. “Youngkin’s top election official pulled Virginia out of a long-running bipartisan interstate voter program that helps officials maintain their voter rolls and encourages states to register new voters.”

Delegate Marcus Simon said the decision was based on false claims that ERIC data was being used for political purposes: “This is wild conspiracy theory stuff. This is right up there on the same level as Dominion Voting Systems-type of conspiracies. There is no basis in fact for any of the attacks on ERIC.”

After Trump lost the 2020 election, his representatives and right-wing media allies spread false claims that Dominion had rigged its voting machines to help Democrats win.

According to ERIC’s website, as of April 30, its data has helped officials identify nearly 12 million voters who have moved across state lines since the start of 2013 and about 56 million potential eligible voters who are not registered.

Simon added that while Virginia Republicans often talk about election integrity, the move undermines that effort: “ERIC exists to help combat voter fraud. If you’re concerned about people voting twice, if you’re concerned about people registering to vote in two different states and trying to walk across the border and vote again, that’s what ERIC is designed to prevent, and it’s actually really good at it.”

Over the past two years, Youngkin and the GOP-controlled House of Delegates have tried to roll back voting rights laws and make it more difficult for citizens to cast their ballots in the commonwealth, through bills that would have reduced early voting, ended same-day registration, required strict photo ID to vote, and banned ballot drop boxes. These efforts were stymied by the Democratic majority in the Senate.

In November, all 100 House and 40 Senate seats in the Virginia Legislature will be on the ballot in the commonwealth’s elections.

Shawn Weneta, a policy and advocacy strategist for the ACLU of Virginia, told the American Independent Foundation in April that should Republicans win majorities in both chambers, voting rights would likely take a serious hit, warning, “It’s really become a political football.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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