Judge Pierces Electronic Registration Information Center's 'Wall of Secrecy'

A federal judge in Alaska sets aside the organization's non-disclosure requirement.
Judge Pierces Electronic Registration Information Center's 'Wall of Secrecy'
The nondescript Alaska State Capitol in Juneau. (Dennis Lennox)
Steven Kovac

It was a long, roundabout, process, but the people of Alaska have won the right to examine taxpayer-funded reports concerning dead people on the state voter rolls.

The legal settlement mandating the disclosure of the data was formalized on Sept. 19, 2023, in a stipulated order issued by United States District Court Judge Sharon L. Gleason.

Alaska has 30 days to turn over the information to the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), the plaintiff in the case.

The requested information is contained in reports compiled by the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a national, non-profit organization that contracts with about half the states to perform voter roll maintenance and promote voter registration.

A state’s membership contract with ERIC forbids disclosure to the public of the voter registration information it gathers—information paid for by taxpayer dollars.

PILF President J. Christian Adams said in a statement: “This is a landmark victory to knock down ERIC’s wall of secrecy. All other ERIC member states should take notice that the public has a right to inspect ERIC records.”

When The Epoch Times asked ERIC, if it would, in light of the Alaska case, open its voter registration reports to the public in all its member states, there was no reply.

In an ironic turn of events, election integrity advocates Lt. Governor Nancy Dahlstrom and Attorney General Treg Taylor, both Republicans, had to appear to be the “bad guys” in order to advance the cause of transparency in their state’s election administration—something they both are on record strongly supporting.

 J. Christian Adams, president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF). (Courtesy of PILF)
J. Christian Adams, president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF). (Courtesy of PILF)

Ms. Dahlstrom, in her capacity as the state’s top election official, fell into the role of the defendant sued by PILF in a case that started about a year before she took office.

As the attorney general, Mr. Taylor’s office was obliged to defend her and the state’s rejection of the information request.

The release of the requested data by election officials on their own initiative would have created a breach of contract exposure for the state.

So, as it turns out, despite being the defendant, it was not the recalcitrance of Ms. Dahlstrom that was responsible for the lengthy legal battle.

It was Alaska’s contractual obligations with ERIC that hindered the disclosure and necessitated that a court nullify the contract's secrecy clause so that the data could be released without subjecting the state to legal liability.

Interestingly, ERIC was not a defendant in the lawsuit.

The Crux of the Case

Because Alaska does not have a secretary of state, the lieutenant governor is designated as the chief election official and is therefore responsible for keeping the state in compliance with the National Voting Rights Act (NVRA), according to PILF spokesperson Lauren Bowman.

PILF contended that the NVRA guarantees the public the right to see and even make copies of state election roll data and voter list maintenance documents, including reports from ERIC.

The federal statute reads in pertinent part, “Each state shall maintain for at least two years and shall make available for public inspection and, where available, photocopying at a reasonable cost, all records concerning the implementation of programs and activities conducted for the purpose of ensuring the accuracy and currency of official lists of eligible voters.”

In August 2021, PILF requested the data concerning dead people on the voting rolls contained in the ERIC reports covering the years 2019, 2020, and 2021.

Alaska denied PILF’s request for the information.

On Jan. 20, 2022, PILF filed its lawsuit in the hope of obtaining the data through a court order.

Ultimately, it was the United States District Court that forced Alaska to make the data available to the public, irrespective of its contract with ERIC.

The court ordered that the state did not have to release a voter’s birthdate, voter identification number, and certain privacy-sensitive information from the Social Security Administration displayed in voting records.

However, the order does mandate that PILF investigators and other future requesters be provided with an ascension number, as a means of quickly locating a specific registration in the database.

In his statement, Mr. Adams expressed appreciation and thanks to Mr. Taylor for “his commitment to transparent elections.”

Mr. Taylor became the state’s top attorney on May 11, 2021.

Neither Mr. Taylor nor Ms. Dahlstrom responded to a request for comment.

Dwindling Membership

According to PILF, concerns about alleged partisanship on the part of ERIC, lack of transparency, and resistance to needed reforms of its policies and procedures, have caused the legislatures of Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, and Texas to opt out of membership.

Alaska joined ERIC in 2016.

Earlier this year, the state’s Division of Elections (DOE) examined departing from ERIC but decided to remain a member for now.

DOE officials have publicly cited ERIC’s ability to detect voters who are registered in more than one state as one of the organization’s strong points.

PILF is a national law firm wholly dedicated to election integrity, the fight against lawlessness in American elections, and preserving the constitutional framework of those elections.

The organization has ongoing lawsuits in Louisiana, Colorado, and the District of Columbia seeking to obtain ERIC reports and affirm the public’s right to inspect voter eligibility information.

Steven Kovac reports for The Epoch Times from Michigan. He is a general news reporter who has covered topics related to rising consumer prices to election security issues. He can be reached at [email protected]