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Allen: Alabama to withdraw from national voter clearinghouse; Merrill criticizes move

ERIC is a multi-state voter information center that cross-checks voter data to prevent inter-state fraud.

Secretary of State Wes Allen

When Wes Allen takes office as secretary of state in January, he plans to withdraw the state from participation in the Electronic Registration Information Center.

Allen campaigned on the issue, citing distrust of sending voter information to an out-of-state entity.

“I made a promise that I would withdraw Alabama from ERIC and I am keeping that promise,” Allen said in a press release. “I have informed them, via certified letter, that upon my inauguration on January 16, 2023, Alabama will immediately and permanently cease to transmit any information regarding any citizen in the State of Alabama to their organization and that we will no longer participate in any aspect of the ERIC program.”

Outgoing secretary of state John Merrill criticized the move in a response Wednesday, saying it is based on unfounded suspicions about the organization.

“This continued narrative of ERIC being a George Soros system is untrue. ERIC was not founded nor funded by George Soros, and to claim otherwise is either dishonest or misinformed,” Merrills said, addressing a previous claim by Allen. “ERIC was founded by the original seven-member states: Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, Nevada, Utah, Virginia, and Washington with the assistance of Pew Charitable Trust. Also, ERIC’s operating costs are funded completely by annual dues paid by member states, not by George Soros.”

Alabama currently pays $25,0000 per year to participate in the system and sends voter information including names, addresses and partial social security numbers to ERIC.

Merrill said that process is essential to help prevent voters from committing fraud by voting in multiple states.

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“Alabama uses ERIC to preserve a clean and accurate voter list. We have not experienced one negative issue because of our relationship with ERIC,” Merrill said. “In fact, ERIC identified 12 confirmed incidents of voter fraud during the 2020 election where citizens voted in both Alabama and another member state. These cases have been turned over to the Attorney General’s Office for investigation. Other member states are currently working with Alabama to identify other incidents of voter fraud. This would not have been possible without our partnership with ERIC.”

Allen has said he believes the office can work with various state agencies to keep accurate voter rolls for county boards of registrars.

But Merrill questioned how Allen will be able to track what is happening out of state.

“Our office does not have direct access to other states’ voter databases or driver’s license records or access to the Social Security Administration Death Master Index,” Merrill said. “ERIC does. Finally, neither the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency nor our office have the ability to compare driver’s license records for our state with other states for the purpose of voter list maintenance. ERIC does. So, if Wes Allen plans to remove Alabama from its relationship with ERIC, how does he intend to maintain election security without access to the necessary data, legal authority, or capability to conduct proper voter list maintenance?”

Allen formerly served as the probate judge in Pike County and is ending his first and only term as State Representative for Pike County. Allen secured 66 percent of the vote in the General Election to become the next secretary of state after defeating state auditor Jim Zeigler and others for the Republican nomination.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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