Florida exits nationwide voter data group over privacy, partisanship concerns

'Florida has tried to back reforms to increase protections, but these protections were refused. Therefore, we have lost confidence in ERIC.'

Nearly four years after Florida joined the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a nationwide group of states that works to ensure the accuracy of voter rolls, the state is leaving the organization over concerns of data privacy and partisanship.

“I have an obligation to protect the personal information of Florida’s citizens, which the ERIC agreement requires us to share,” Secretary of State Cord Byrd said in a released statement. “Florida has tried to back reforms to increase protections, but these protections were refused. Therefore, we have lost confidence in ERIC.”

Florida wasn’t the only state to leave the group, following West Virginia and Missouri out the exit door. Before the departures, 32 member states and Washington, D.C., shared voter roll data with ERIC.

In an open letter last week, ERIC executive director Shane Hamlin stated “misinformation” was spreading about the organization, and pushed back on the claim its data wasn’t secure.

“ERIC is never connected to any state’s voter registration system,” Hamlin wrote. “Members retain complete control over their voter rolls and they use the reports we provide in ways that comply with federal and state laws.

“We follow widely accepted security protocols for handling the data we utilize to create the reports. Our servers are housed in a managed, secure data center located here in the U.S. Secure remote access to the data center is limited to only employees who need it to perform their duties.”

Byrd said the concerns stem from ERIC’s rejection of suggestions to better secure data and limit the influence of ex-officio partisan members. The release from Byrd’s Office, though, didn’t specifically name any partisan member he deemed troubling.

Participation in ERIC has been a debated topic in Florida for at least a decade. Gov. Ron DeSantis’ predecessor, Rick Scott, opted not to join the group. Scott “did not believe it was right to share the personal information of every Florida voter with a liberal think tank,” his spokesman, Chris Hartline, told POLITICO in 2019.

DeSantis disagreed, opting to join the group in August 2019.

“One of my administration’s top priorities is protecting the integrity of Florida’s elections, which is why joining ERIC is the right thing to do for our state as it will ensure our voter rolls are up-to-date and it will increase voter participation in our elections,” DeSantis said at the time.

“Since taking office, we have been reviewing this issue with Supervisors of Elections. We are confident that by improving the accuracy of our voter rolls, we will reduce the potential for voter fraud.”

Orlando Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani criticized the decision following Byrd’s announcement.

“This is a terrible decision that is 100% fueled by election deniers and Gov. DeSantis’ presidential bid. ERIC has helped states maintain clean voter rolls and share voter information across state lines to ensure transparency, integrity and security with our elections system,” she said in a news release. “Joining ERIC was once a bipartisan policy decision and leaving actually makes it easier for Florida Republicans to modify voter information with no oversight. We are quickly degrading as a state but I won’t stop fighting for a Florida that serves all.”

Gray Rohrer


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