If NC Republicans fear voter fraud, why are they ditching this protection? | Opinion
You would think that the political party seeking to make a voter ID requirement part of the North Carolina Constitution would support a low-cost way to ensure the accuracy of the state’s voter rolls.
But that’s not the case. NC Newsline reported last week that the proposed House and Senate budgets in the Republican-controlled General Assembly contain provisions repealing prior authorizations that would have allowed North Carolina to join the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC).
ERIC is an interstate data-sharing partnership founded jointly by Republicans and Democrats in 2012. Thirty one states and the District of Columbia participate.
ERIC uses voter rolls, DMV records and information from the Social Security Administration to identify voters who have moved, who are registered in multiple states or have died.
ERIC’s bylaws also require states to notify their residents who are eligible to vote but who are not registered and invite them to register. That provision reflects a once common American idea that expanding participation in elections is good for democracy. Republicans, members of a mostly white party worried about its demographic decline, have since come to think it’s only good for Democrats.
Thus, Republican state lawmakers have taken the unusual step of blocking the state from spending $35,000 to join ERIC.
The reversal disappointed State Board of Elections Director Karen Brinson Bell, who had pushed for joining ERIC. She thought the agreement was complete.
“More than half of the states are members of ERIC, which is the only system available to share data across state lines to keep our voter rolls as up-to-date and accurate as possible,” she said in a statement. “It is also an important tool to identify people who commit the crime of voting in more than one state in the same election. North Carolina would have certainly benefited from these resources.”
Like so much else this legislature does, rejecting ERIC is not an original thought. Other states controlled by Republican legislatures have started pulling out of ERIC. Officials in those states have cited concerns about ERIC compromising voter privacy and a false, right-wing conspiracy theory that the partnership is funded by George Soros, the billionaire benefactor of progressive causes.
North Carolina Republicans said they weren’t joining ERIC because other states are leaving. Virginia, one of the founding states of the ERIC partnership, recently announced it would be the next defector.
Sen. Ralph Hise, a Mitchell County Republican, said North Carolina is staying out of ERIC because the organization is “collapsing.” Actually, for Republicans so concerned about voter fraud, ERIC’s leaking membership is all the more reason to bolster it by joining.
The real reason, of course, is that Republicans aren’t really concerned about preventing dead people from “voting.” They’re concerned about keeping certain living people from voting.
That became clear in a remarkably frank comment by Alabama’s Secretary of State Wes Allen. In a radio interview, Allen explained why Alabama was getting out of ERIC.
“(ERIC) was a way to really identify who was not registered to vote,” Allen said. “And then, per the contract, the state would have to contact these voters and encourage them to get registered to vote.”
No, you wouldn’t want that.
Associate opinion editor Ned Barnett can be reached at 919-404-7583, or nbarnett@ news observer.com