Despite some politicians’ breathless but baseless claims about voter fraud, election officials in the United States actually have a sophisticated system to prevent it.
Voter fraud is rare in part because election officials do a pretty good job of removing opportunities for fraud by removing out-of-date registrations.
If registrations for deceased voters are routinely removed from the rolls, they can’t be used to illegally cast a ballot in the deceased person’s name.
If duplicate registrations at old addresses or in old names are routinely removed from the voter rolls, they can’t be used to vote twice.
Such list maintenance is a key part of every election official’s job and is required by federal law.
The best tool available for this is the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a sophisticated and secure data matching system developed in 2012 by Pew Charitable Trusts and election officials in Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, Nevada, Utah, Virginia and Washington.
By the end of last year, 30 states and the District of Columbia were using ERIC, and the program had identified 3,612,516 cross-state duplicate registrations; 9,495,641 within-state duplicate registrations; and 334,833 records for deceased voters. The system found these records by regularly comparing state supplied voter registration lists to motor vehicle licensing agency data and the Social Security Administration master death index list.
So why haven’t the other 20 states joined ERIC?
Especially now that Crosscheck, former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s primitive and error-ridden tool for cross-state matching formerly used by 14 of the ERIC holdouts, has been sidelined by a federal judge due to inadequate data security?
Some states, including Kansas, say ERIC’s cost is the barrier. ERIC members must pay a $25,000 fee to join and an annual split of the ongoing operating costs, which for Kansas have been estimated at $18,000.
Focusing on out-of-pocket costs ignores the savings and efficiencies ERIC provides, such as lower mailing costs and fewer provisional ballots. States can also cancel costly individual subscriptions to the Social Security death index and U.S. Postal Service data.
Meanwhile, loud and well-funded voter fraud alarmists have not been moved to use part of their funding to expand ERIC or even to vigorously endorse its expansion to all 50 states — despite its proven ability to prevent fraud.
As Sherman Smith’s recent Kansas Reflector article documents, decades of casually made but never-substantiated claims of voter fraud are part of a multifaceted attempt by Republicans to choose their voters by denying the vote to those they cannot win over.
It’s time to move beyond election-integrity lip service as a cover story for attempts to suppress the vote.
We can advance both interests — protecting voting rights and minimizing fraud — by enrolling the twenty hold-out states in ERIC.