Multi-State Voter Fraud Initiative Discussions Involving Virginia

Virginia election officials have been reaching out to a bipartisan group from about two dozen other states since March to hammer out new voter data sharing agreements. Their talks began as a steady stream of Republican-led states left a multistate partnership that until early 2022 was seen as a largely reliable bipartisan effort.

The emails also imply that Governor Glenn Youngkin’s administration was directly involved in Virginia’s abrupt exit from that partnership, the Electronic Registration Information Center, commonly known as ERIC.

Many of the complaints cited by Virginia Elections Commissioner Susan Beals in a May 11 letter announcing the state’s departure are also contradicted by talking point staff prepared for Beals several weeks before Virginia officially left. ERIC on August 10.

Of the. Mark Sickles, the top Democratic lawmaker on the House of Delegates Elections Committee, said he plans to push for answers when the General Assembly reconvenes in January. He said the rationale provided in Beals’ letter was incomplete.

“Why didn’t the General Assembly know there was dissatisfaction with ERIC?” Sickles said in an email.

A new partnership
Ohio Chief Electoral Officer Amanda Grandjean wrote to her counterparts on March 24 — a week after the state left ERIC — to see if they would be interested in discussing “secure voter history sharing.” and other relevant data for the purpose of identifying and investigating possible interstate electoral fraud”.

After the meeting, Grandjean responded, noting that the group had two goals: a short-term effort focused on state-to-state data sharing to prevent voter fraud, and a longer-term project “to share data securely and perform [vote] matches centrally, including those of possible interstate voter fraud and other matches relevant to state list-keeping purposes. »

Grandjean proposed to start the ball rolling from the first effort, by sending a draft agreement between States. He specifies that the objective of the memorandum of understanding is “to investigate and prevent electoral fraud”.

Grandjean later said the group was investigating to improve the memorandum of understanding as part of an effort led by West Virginia election officials.

Meeting invitations obtained by VPM News show election officials from various states attended some of the group’s meetings, including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana , Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming, as well as Washington, D.C.

It’s unclear where the group’s discussions stand. Virginia Department of Elections spokeswoman Andrea Gaines said in an email that the department is “pursuing data-sharing agreements with other states, supplementing internal list maintenance processes with more data.” and successfully updating more voter information than ever before”.

Mary Cianciolo, spokeswoman for Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, did not respond directly to a series of emailed questions.

“Ohio is committed to working with any state and entering into an agreement with any state to securely share data for the purpose of identifying interstate voter fraud and maintaining lists of ‘accurate voter registration,’” she said in an email.

LaRose’s office has yet to respond to a June 22 public records request made by VPM News; under the Ohio Code public records have no specific deadline but must be “promptly prepared” and made available “within a reasonable time.”

Internal contradictions

Virginia was a founding member of ERIC under former GOP Governor Bob McDonnell. The Elections Department has repeatedly hailed ERIC as a valuable tool.

“The data quality of the ERIC program is significantly better than that of other interstate exchange programs and any program that ELECT could operate internally with existing resources,” the department noted in its List Maintenance Report. 2022.

This was before a series of articles from far-right site ERIC targeted and linked the system to an alleged left-wing plot to steal the election. Several Republican-led states announced they were leaving ERIC as a result of the articles.

Beals’ defense of ERIC was markedly weaker at an April 11 State Board of Elections meeting, when a member of the public accused ERIC of a “Democrat-led registration collection process.”

“We take the concerns that have been expressed very seriously and are reviewing our relationship with ERIC, while pushing for reforms within the organization,” Beals said.

Talking points prepared for Beals and emailed on April 27 echoed this language while listing the virtues of ERIC, including:

“It would take ELECT thousands of dollars to build a comparable product”;
“ELECT does not provide or receive any information that is not relevant and essential to an individual’s voter record, such as income or health information”;

“Since 2013, ELECT’s participation in ERIC has identified more than 1.5 million voter records in need of updating.”
But per the May 11 letter, Beals said the state had seen enough. The collaboration had become too expensive, with costs increasing by $17,000 between the last fiscal year and the current one, an increase of approximately 45%. Leaving other states made his data less valuable, Beals said. She also cited “controversy surrounding the historical sharing of data with outside organizations exploited for political purposes.”

Beals provided no evidence for the prosecution. ÉRIC’s website notes that the group does not allow partisan groups to access its data. Some states voluntarily participated in third-party research projects in 2018 and 2020 using ERIC data to assess the effectiveness of mailings targeting unregistered voters.

Beals’ decision to leave the collaboration was strongly condemned by election administrators and Democrats, some of whom had previously defended his work.

It’s unclear why Beals took a sudden tougher line on the subject. But public records show Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s office was involved in the decision.

When VPM News requested any internal documents or memos assessing the costs or benefits of the state leaving ERIC, the department denied the request, citing an exemption from releasing governor’s working papers.

The records include “a decision memorandum and related correspondence specifically with the Governor’s Office regarding Virginia’s ERIC membership,” according to the department’s FOIA officer.

Macaulay Porter, a spokesman for the governor, did not directly respond to questions about Youngkin’s role in the maneuver.

“Virginia is entering into agreements with other states and has identified additional data sources to strengthen the integrity of its voters list,” Porter said.

Gaines declined to elaborate on Youngkin’s role in the withdrawal.

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