Virginia becomes the latest state to depart nonpartisan election security pact

Virginia becomes the latest state to depart nonpartisan election security pact

Virginia formally withdrew from an election information-sharing pact on Thursday, the latest state under Republican control to exit the non-partisan program that became the subject of conspiracy theories surrounding the 2020 presidential election.

“Virginia’s resignation from ERIC is effective August 10,” a spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Elections confirmed to NBC News.

The Electronic Registration Information Center, known as ERIC, is an information-sharing group designed to help member states spot voters who should be removed from their voter rolls, including those who are deceased or move to a different state. The system also flags potential cases of double-voting — ballots cast in more than one state by the same voter — that are then used to investigate potential instances of voter fraud.

In a letter notifying the group of their intent to exit the agreement, Susan Beals, the commissioner of Virginia’s Department of Elections, cited concerns about the pact’s “increasing and uncertain” costs, as well as an “inconsistent enforcement” of membership criteria, as factors leading to their withdrawal.

“In short, ERIC’s mandate has expanded beyond that of its initial intent — to improve the accuracy of voter rolls,” Beals wrote in May. “We will pursue other information arrangements with our neighboring states and look to other opportunities to partner with states in an apolitical fashion.”

ERIC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Virginia, a swing state, was one of ERIC’s founding member states in 2012, and the group’s website says its seven founding members “believed using state-of-the-art data matching technology, a robust and safe data sharing program built on widely accepted information security standards, and an unprecedented commitment to cooperation would vastly improve their ability to maintain accurate voter rolls.”

But Virginia’s move makes it the eighth U.S. state to either withdraw or announce plans to withdraw from the pact — following Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio, Texas, and West Virginia — after some prominent conservatives, including former President Donald Trump, linked the group to unsubstantiated allegations of widespread voter fraud during the 2020 election. All eight states have Republican governors — except Louisiana, where the Republican secretary of state oversees elections.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin speaks at the grand opening ceremony for Amazon HQ2 on June 15 in Arlington.Drew Angerer / Getty Images file

For their part, Virginia’s Democratic party accused the administration of Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, of withdrawing the commonwealth from “a system designed to prevent voter fraud — without a replacement.”

“That’s the MAGA plan for Virginia: make it harder to vote and easier to cheat,” the party wrote in a post to X, the platform formally known as Twitter.

Youngkin’s office did not immediately respond to NBC News’ request for comment. A Virginia Department of Elections spokesperson declined to provide additional comment.

In the letter, Beals said the commonwealth is concerned over the “stewardship” of voter information, and accused the pact of sharing data with external organizations “leveraged for political purposes.”

Shane Hamlin, ERIC’s Executive Director, wrote in an open letter that such allegations are unfounded.

“Members retain complete control over their voter rolls and they use the reports we provide in ways that comply with federal and state laws,” Hamlin wrote in March, later adding that the organization adheres to “widely accepted security protocols” when handling voter data, which he said is housed in a “managed, secure data center.”

“We will remain focused on our mission by providing our members with actionable data they can use to keep their voter rolls more accurate, investigate potential illegal activity, and offer voter registration information to those who may need it,” he said.

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