The first official act in office from Alabama’s recently elected Secretary of State Wes Allen, a Republican, was to remove the state from a voter registration data-sharing group.
Allen, who was sworn in as the state’s 54th secretary of state on Monday, made the promise to voters to withdraw from the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) on the campaign trail last year.
“I made a promise to the people of Alabama that ending our state’s relationship with the ERIC organization would be my first official act as secretary of state,” Allen said in a press release. “I came into the office after being sworn in yesterday and signed the letter to ERIC notifying them that Alabama is no longer a participant in any of their programs. The relationship between Alabama and ERIC is officially over.”
ERIC is a partnership between 32 states, including the District of Columbia, that identifies “out-of-date records found by comparing voter registration data between states, to motor vehicle licensing agency data, and to the Social Security Administration master death index list,” according to the nonprofit organization’s website.
ERIC began providing list maintenance data to members in July 2013.
Allen campaigned on a vow to end Alabama’s participation in the voting system that is run by a nongovernment organization based in Washington, D.C, a press release from his office announcing the move stated.
He expressed concern over the private organization having access to the private data of Alabama citizens, including their driver’s license numbers, contact information, and the partial social security numbers of minors.
“Providing the private information of Alabama citizens, including underage minors, to an out-of-state organization is troubling to me and to people that I heard from as I traveled the state for the last 20 months,” Allen said. “That is no longer a concern because the data uploads of that information from Alabama to ERIC is over.”
Former Secretary of State John Merrill said at the time he reached out to Allen about the decision, according to a Huntsville NBC affiliate.
“I have made overtures to him to try to make sure he’s properly educated about ERIC, what the purpose of the Electronic Registration Information Center is, but unfortunately, he has elected not to have those discussions in detail,” he said.
Merrill said ERIC was used to “protect the integrity of Alabama’s elections” as recently as the midterm elections in 2022.
“This system has been preventing the state from being exposed to voter fraud,” he said, according to the NBC affiliate. “We’ve identified a number of people who have actually committed voter fraud and just last week, we introduced 12 individuals to the attorney general’s office who voted in our state and in another state at the same time.”
Merrill said on Tuesday, according to CBS News, he trusts Allen “has evaluated this situation and is making the decision based on what he believes to be in the best interest of the state of Alabama.”
Other States Withdraw
CBS reported that the issue of participation in ERIC was also raised in Arizona’s secretary of state race, with the Republican candidate saying he would also withdraw.
Louisiana’s secretary of state withdrew the state from ERIC in January 2022 (pdf).
“When Louisiana joined ERIC under my predecessor, we did so under the impression that it would enhance the accuracy of our voter rolls and strengthen Louisiana’s election integrity,” Secretary Kyle Ardoin said. “After reading about these allegations and speaking with election attorneys and experts, I have determined that it may no longer be in Louisiana’s best interests to participate in this organization.”
According to the organization, the states that currently participate in ERIC are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.