Republicans insist their laws restricting access to voting are intended to stop fraud, but conservatives are pushing a conspiracy theory against a tool that actually helps states protect their election.
Polls show GOP voters mistrust the results of elections, but right-wing conservatives are attacking a shared database called the Electronic Registration Information Center, called ERIC for short, that allows states to securely share registration data with government agencies like the Social Security Administration and the Department of Motor Vehicles to maintain accurate voter rolls, reported NPR.
"When you move away from a state, you don't call your old state and say, 'Please take me off the voter lists,'" said elections expert David Becker, a former Justice Department attorney who led the development of ERIC while working at the Pew Charitable Trusts. "So to get really strong data that someone moved to another state — got a driver's license there or maybe registered to vote — that's really powerful information that allows states to keep their data up to date."
More than 30 states, including GOP strongholds Alabama and South Carolina, use the decade-old program to obtain accurate information about voters, but right-wing media outlets are presenting ERIC as a left-wing conspiracy to tamper with elections -- and conservatives are pressuring state officials to drop out.
"We have had a number of emails from some very ill-informed, uninformed or uneducated people," said Alabama secretary of state John Merrill, a Republican.
The conspiracies have already pressured Louisiana to withdraw its membership, which its secretary of state announced had been based on "concerns raised by citizens, government watchdog organizations and media reports," and one of the GOP candidates who is running to replace Merrill, who's not running for re-election, has said he would withdraw Alabama from ERIC.
"They don't care about actual integrity," said Becker, who ow runs the nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation & Research. "They only care that their side wins. That is the most anti-democratic idea that I can imagine."
Becker said that, thanks to the ERIC database, Louisiana had identified more than 16,000 dead people on its voting lists since 2014 and more than 54,000 who had moved out of state, but the state would no longer have access to that data.
"If a state leaves ERIC, what they're doing is cutting their nose to spite their face," Becker said. "They're handcuffing their ability to keep their lists accurate."