March 31, 2023

Far-right activists are leading a campaign to get Texas to become the next state to withdraw from a multistate voter roll program, Votebeat first reported.

The Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) is a voter roll cleanup program used by over 30 states in the U.S. And it has become the latest target of election deniers’ ire in recent months as baseless conspiracy theories about ERIC and its funding sources are pushed in right-wing media. 

ERIC attracted the attention of the right-wing conspiracy theory machine in January, when the far-right media outlet Gateway Pundit published blog posts accusing the program of being part of some sort of lefty plot to control the democratic process, funded by George Soros and run by liberals.

The program was founded in 2012 as a joint bipartisan effort between seven states to compare voter data across state lines. Its funding was provided by the nonpartisan Pew Charitable Trusts, which once received a $500,000 donation from Soros’ Open Society Foundation. Pew hasn’t contributed financially to the program since; Soros, himself, never has.

Conspiracy theories around the program became so prevalent in recent months that ERIC Executive Director Shane Hamlin published an open letter on March 2 debunking them. “We are a member-run, member-driven organization,” he wrote. 

But several states had already dropped from the program by then. Louisiana withdrew from ERIC last year, and Alabama joined them this past January. Florida, Missouri and West Virginia all cited “partisanship” as their reason for withdrawing, and Ohio’s Secretary of State Frank LaRose distributed a letter flirting with the idea of dropping out if the program didn’t adhere to a list of reforms—even though he’d praised the program just weeks beforehand.

And now, Texas could be next on the list. Over the past year, activists and Republican state legislators in Texas have held virtual meetings discussing the program and entertaining conspiracy theories about its leadership team. The Republican-controlled state legislature is currently considering a bill to cut ties with the program.

“We want to be able to do something and we have a senator that’s willing to help change that or add language or improve or reform ERIC,” Toni Anne Dashiell, the Republican national committeewoman for Texas, said during an August meeting discussing ERIC. She was referring to Senator Bryan Hughes, the Republican who filed the legislation seeking to cut ties with the program.

“Now, there is no evidence that ERIC is doing anything to Texas voter rolls, I want to be clear about that,” Hughes said during a meeting in October. “But we do know, again, that the people running ERIC don’t share our worldview.”

If passed, Hughes’s bill would go into effect in September, marking yet another win for election deniers’ fear mongering heading into the 2024 election season.

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