Kentucky will remain with the Electronic Registration Information Center, or ERIC, for a year while reviewing possible alternatives to support voter rolls maintenance, Secretary of State Michael Adams said Wednesday.
Recently, seven Republican-led states have left ERIC, an interstate compact for sharing voter registration data. Some former members like Virginia and Texas plan to create their own data-sharing networks, but a new interstate partnership could be a major challenge, requiring significant time and resources.
To leave ERIC without a backup plan would be “irresponsible,” Adams said. On the other hand, staying in ERIC would be “equally irresponsible.”
While Kentucky stays in ERIC for the next year, barring it disbands before then, Adams plans to look at alternatives, consider possible statutory changes and confer with other secretaries of state.
“I will work in good faith with officials in both political parties, here in Kentucky and federally, and if I remain in Office for the 2024 General Assembly, I will work with legislators of both political parties to develop other ways to continue the progress we have made in cleaning up our rolls,” Adams said.
Adams, a Republican, is seeking a second term in office. He said in his tenure, approximately 330,000 voters have been purged from voter rolls with assistance from Kentucky’s ERIC membership. Through the system, the state has received information about voters who moved out of state and re-registered elsewhere or voters who died after moving out-of-state.
Because nearly a quarter of ERIC’s members have left or are planning to leave, annual dues will increase, Adams said. Another issue for Kentucky is that only one neighboring state is left in the compact, and interstate relocation to and from Kentucky typically involves its neighbors, “Kentucky is about to pay a lot more money to get a lot less information.”
A recent court filing by Adams said Kentucky’s dues this year are $40,039 and are projected to increase to $58,797, or, if Texas leaves as expected, $65,115.
Adams said he asked the judge who presided over Judicial Watch’s 2017 lawsuit against former Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes if Kentucky is obligated to remain in ERIC. The federal judge ordered Grimes to clean up voter rolls in compliance with the National Voter Registration Act.
Part of the settlement included Kentucky stepping up compliance efforts, which included joining ERIC in 2019, Adams said.
Adams said he will not remove Kentucky from ERIC if the court does not allow it. If the departure is permitted, Kentucky will need time to review alternatives to getting necessary voter information for maintaining roles, the cost of alternatives and if legislative action is needed.
The U.S. Department of Justice, which intervened in the Judicial Watch case, has offered assistance in reviewing alternatives, Adams continued. He also said “receipt of information from federal agencies like the U.S. Postal Service and the Social Security Administration would greatly help.”
“Prior to last year, ERIC was not controversial,” Adams said. “Unfortunately, like any effort at bipartisanship in recent history, it has come under attack. I have consistently defended ERIC against falsehoods about its funding and operations, even risking my re-nomination for this Office to do so. ERIC has helped Kentucky comply with the law and conduct fair elections. While my administration will never cave to conspiracy theorists, it nevertheless is true that the value of ERIC to us going forward is a debatable question.”
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