Editorials, Opinion

W.Va. sacrifices real election integrity in favor of illusion

Earlier this month, West Virginia joined several other deep-red states, including Florida and Missouri, in capitulating to the election fraud conspiracy crowd when the state opted to leave the Electronic Registration Information Center partnership. Louisiana and Alabama dropped out of the program earlier this year. 

For states, and state election officials like Mac Warner, who claim to care about election integrity, this is a huge mistake. 

Founded in 2012 with three Democratic and four Republican states, ERIC, as it’s known, is a bipartisan nonprofit that helps states share data to keep states’ voter rolls up-to-date and accurate. In 2022, ERIC had 32 participating states, plus Washington, D.C. The nonprofit allows member states to more easily identify out-of-date or duplicate voter registrations, deceased voters or voters who have moved, as well as voters who are eligible but not registered. (Ironically, Florida’s Office of Election Crimes and Security relied on data from ERIC to identify voters who may have cast ballots in more than one state during the 2022 general election.) In the absence of a comprehensive, national voter registration log, ERIC gives member states the best chances of detecting voter irregularities and cleaning up voter rolls.  

So why the sudden mass exodus of red states?  

It started with the far-right blog “Gateway Pundit” publishing a series of baseless posts claiming ERIC is a front for leftist election fraudsters (a sentiment amplified by Trump). It falsely claimed ERIC is far-left-leaning and funded by George Soros (a frequent target of right-wing conspiracies). In reality, until five Republican states left this year, ERIC’s board consisted of almost equal numbers of red and blue state representatives, and the organization has been praised by politicians of all stripes for its bipartisan nature. 

Like most convincing lies, there’s a tiny kernel of truth in the claim about Soros. Start-up funds for ERIC came from Pew Charitable Trusts, an organization to which Soros has donated. But ERIC was not one of the projects Soros’ donations funded. Once it got rolling, ERIC has been sustained by one-time membership fees and annual dues. States fund ERIC — not outside parties. 

In their exit announcements, the secretaries of state of West Virginia, Florida and Missouri said the quiet part out loud: One of the reasons they’re leaving is because they want David Becker out. Becker, a long-time non-voting member of ERIC’s board, was a former Department of Justice attorney. He has loudly denounced election fraud conspiracies and those who peddle them. (We can see, then, why Warner dislikes Becker.)  

In his exit announcement, Warner alluded to Becker, saying it was a “shame” ERIC “would allow the opportunity for partisanship to stray the organization.” Again — Becker holds no voting power. Plus, he announced on Twitter March 14 that he declined re-nomination to the board. 

The part Warner and his compatriots haven’t said to the public, but made clear to ERIC, is they don’t like ERIC’s requirement for member states to reach out to eligible but unregistered voters every two years. As several of the recently departed states discuss starting their own ERIC alternative, we imagine they’ll likely choose to forgo this requirement. 

Warner and the election officials from Florida, Missouri, Alabama and Louisianna have reaffirmed their commitment not to actual election integrity but to the conspiracy-fueled illusion of election integrity.