Florida All In for 'ERIC'
Florida is joining a national electronic center to exchange voter registration data with other states – an effort that’s been long-sought by the 67 counties’ supervisors of elections.
“Election security, obviously, is important, but so is the integrity of our voter registration rolls,” said the governor. “And one of the best ways to do that, I think, is for Florida to join the Electronic Voter Registration Information Center which is known as ERIC.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis making the announcement Wednesday in Orlando. The Washington, D.C.-based non-profit began in 2012 with seven states and assistance from the PEW Charitable Trusts. Florida becomes the 29th state to join the consortium, more than a year after it was authorized by the Legislature.
“We have a lot of people moving into the state, we’re a very dynamic state in terms of our population,” said DeSantis. “[ERIC] allows the supervisors here in Florida [and] the Secretary of State, to amass duplicate registrations. If someone moves from Michigan to here, and registered both places, obviously you can vote in one or the other, but you can’t vote in both.”
Along with identifying and removing people no longer eligible to vote, ERIC also provides access to Social Security numbers to better identify voters who have passed away.
“Now obviously when people pass away, [we] wish them all the best in the world that lies ahead; but we don’t want them still involved in politics,” the governor joked. “There’s [sic] other parts of the country where they do that; we don’t want that here.”
After getting word that Russian hackers in 2016 breached election systems in two Florida counties, DeSantis redistributed $2.3 million in election-security money that went unspent by counties a year earlier. State lawmakers included $2.8 million in the current fiscal year’s budget for elections cybersecurity.
“Most of the activities that we will undertake will be activities that we already do; it’s just going to be a matter of [a] better source of the data that we’re going to have access to, to make further update to our voter registration rolls,” says David Stafford, elections supervisor in Escambia County.
Florida is the largest state to join ERIC, as have its two next door neighbors, Georgia and Alabama.
“Which is a good thing because we share a significant border with those two states,” says Stafford. “And so you have people who may move from one state to the other, so this would be very beneficial. The other large states – California, Texas, and New York – hopefully will take Florida’s lead and join as well.”
While a few details have to be worked out, he says it’s a step in the right direction for election administration in Florida and nationwide. And it could also lead to more names on the voter rolls.
“So in addition to identifying people who shouldn’t be on your voter rolls – whether it’s a duplicate, deceased, or someone who’s registered in another state – it also identifies a group of people that could be registered but are not, and requires outreach to those individuals,” Stafford says.
Gov. DeSantis wants ERIC set up in Florida in time for the 2020 election cycle. One possible obstacle, says Escambia County’s David Stafford, deals with list maintenance for an election year.
“[It’s] kind of a calendar issue there as far as what to do with the data,” Stafford says. “I feel confident that the data analysis can be done well in advance of the 2020 cycle. Working out those details it would just be a matter of what we’re able to do legally with the data, given those constraints in 2020.