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Democratic lawmakers raise concerns over Virginia's exit from voter protection effort

Virginia is the latest among GOP-led states to exit the voter protection initiative.

RICHMOND, Va. — Democratic lawmakers in Virginia are raising concerns over a policy change from the state's top elections official.

"Our fundamental right to vote is under attack," State Sen. Mamie Locke (D- Hampton) said. 

Last week, Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Elections Susan Neals formally resigned from the Election Registration Information Center (ERIC). First created in 2012, the membership-based bipartisan organization sought to streamline efforts to prevent voter fraud by cross-referencing data from voter registrations, motor vehicle departments, and more.

In a letter to ERIC's Executive Director, Neals terminates Virginia's participation by citing "increasing concerns regarding stewardship, maintenance, privacy and confidentiality of voter information."

On Monday, Democratic lawmakers pushed back on this notion, calling concerns over ERIC based on misinformation and rhetoric fueling the idea of a "stolen" presidential election in 2020. 

“It's clear here in Virginia Republican leaders are buying into [President] Trump’s lies, buying 'The Big Lie' and running with it," Del. Marcus Simon said. "ERIC exists to help combat voter fraud. If you're concerned about people voting twice, registering to vote in two different states and vote again, that’s what ERIC does.”

“From quietly changing the restoration of rights process to this now surprise departure from ERIC, everything they [GOP] do is try to disrupt our elections process," House Minority leader and Portsmouth Del. Don Scott said. 

Virginia becomes one of several GOP-led states to withdraw from ERIC. Since its inception, ERIC has grown from seven states (Virginia one of the original group) to 31 states plus Washington D.C. 

ERIC produced four list maintenance reports:

  • Cross-state movers
  • In-state movers
  • Duplicate report
  • Deceased report

In 2022, ERIC identified more than 200,000 duplicate voter registrations across its data pool. 

“You know what we didn’t hear during the [legislative] session? Any issues about ERIC. We have an attorney general who created an election integrity unit, but he hadn’t said a word about this," Del. Scott added. 

On Monday, lawmakers raised questions about what would be installed in ERIC's place to help the state cross-reference voter registration data. 

"If not through ERIC, how are we going to do it?" Del. Simon asked. "Now we’ve got a few months to come up with a new system."

A statement from Macaulay Porter, from the Office of Gov. Glenn Youngkin, reads:

"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."

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