NORFOLK, Va. — Election officials in Virginia announced plans to withdraw from a multi-state database designed to expand ballot access and fight voter fraud.
It’s called the Electronic Registration Information Center or "ERIC," and it allows states to share voter registration information across state lines to maintain more accurate voter rolls and detect possible illegal voting.
The Virginia Elections Commissioner Susan Beals sent a letter to ERIC officials, stating the reasons behind ending the state’s membership.
She cited increasing concerns over the maintenance and privacy of voter information, among other things.
"In short, ERIC's mandate has expanded beyond that of its initial intent — to improve the accuracy of voter rolls," Beals wrote. "We will pursue other information arrangements with our neighboring states and look to other opportunities to partner with states in an apolitical fashion."
The planned departure raises eyebrows for some, including Norfolk State University’s Department of Political Science Chair Dr. Soji Akomolafe.
“Because what ERIC does, and everybody will tell you, that it prevents voter fraud,” Dr. Akomolafe said.
Dr. Akomolafe said he previously served as the assistant chief of elections for the City of Chesapeake. He said a common problem he faced there was not knowing who left the state. He said that ERIC is crucial in keeping track of Virginia's residents.
Dr. Akomolafe said that while the state leaving ERIC won’t make or break the next election cycle, it will have an effect.
“That’s going to make a dent. And it’s going to be a negative impact rather than a positive one,” he said.
Virginia NAACP President Robert Barnette voiced similar concerns.
“It could mean that folks who are registered in other jurisdictions can vote in Virginia. It’s a tool the registrars do not have to check the verification status of voters,” Barnette said.
Barnette believes the move boils down to party politics.
“It all started because of the…2020 election deniers indicated that President [Joe] Biden did not win the election. And so, any discrepancies with ERIC was, I think, blown out of proportion,” he said.
13News Now reached out to Gov. Glenn Youngkin's office regarding the move. A spokeswoman sent back the following statement:
"Virginia withdrew from ERIC because Virginians’ data was shared with an ERIC-affiliated research organization and despite its efforts, Virginia was unable to reform ERIC. As stewards of Virginia taxpayer dollars, it was also necessary to remove the Commonwealth from ERIC’s significantly increasing costs."
The spokesperson also noted that Virginia will be joining neighboring states in the move away from the database.
ERIC has long been considered a bipartisan effort, and Virginia was one of its founding members in 2012, under then-Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell.