(The Daily Signal) — Government employees in four states are violating federal laws and assisting the left by providing voter information, a conservative legal group argues in suing those states.
The Thomas More Society alleges in its lawsuits against Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin that the Electronic Registration Information Center, also known as ERIC, shares voter information with at least one left-leaning nonprofit.
ERIC is a centralized database designed to help states better maintain voter registration lists by catching duplicate registrations in other states. But now ERIC is tilting the scales, says a lawyer for the Thomas More Society, a conservative legal group that focuses on life, religious liberty, and election integrity.
“Progressives have an advantage through information arbitrage,” Erick Kaardal, the organization’s special counsel, told The Daily Signal in a phone interview after a pretrial hearing Dec. 15 in its suit against Minnesota.
“This will change politics,” Kaardal said. “Instead of requiring candidates to move toward appealing to people in the middle, campaigns will now microtarget subgroups.”
In finance and economics, arbitrage means the simultaneous buying and selling of the same asset in different markets to profit from small differences in the asset’s listed price. In the context of elections, the asset would mean voter information that could be targeted differently by campaigns or organizations.
“We do not comment on pending litigation,” Cassondra Knudson, spokeswoman for Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon, told The Daily Signal when asked to comment for this report.
The Electronic Registration Information Center itself is a private organization. But the Thomas More Society alleges in the lawsuits that the four states’ sharing of data is not legally authorized under three federal laws: the Help America Vote Act of 2002, passed in the wake of the disputed 2000 election; the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, better known as the Motor Voter Law; and the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act of 1994, designed to protect drivers’ licensing information.
Kaardal said this information-sharing by ERIC is different from the current system in which candidates and campaigns may purchase voter registration data. When states share this data with ERIC, he said, outside organizations obtain information that includes the last four digits of a voter’s Social Security number, driver’s license number, date of birth, citizenship status, phone numbers, and other information designed to eliminate duplication of voter registration.
“Government data is critical to get-out-the-vote efforts and microtargeting,” Kaardal said. “Public officials all over the country are contracting with progressive organizations. The Thomas More Society is scrutinizing these election officials and their contracts with progressive candidates, and how it is a substantial advantage for progressive candidates.”
The only progressive organization directly identified in the society’s litigation is the Center for Election Innovation and Research, which was founded by election lawyer David Becker, formerly an activist for the far-left group People for the American Way.
The Center for Election Innovation and Research did not respond to phone and email inquiries from The Daily Signal.
The litigation was reported first in an article in The American Conservative by Hayden Ludwig, senior investigative researcher at the Washington-based investigative think tank Capital Research Center.
“ERIC fits into the Left’s bigger voting machine, which spends hundreds of millions of dollars each election cycle driving up Democratic turnout,” Ludwig told The Daily Signal in an email Monday. “ERIC helps partisan voter registration groups target the Left’s preferred voters, and unfortunately taxpayers get to pay for it. That’s especially concerning given ERIC’s proximity to David Becker and the Center for Election Innovation and Research (CEIR).”
The Electronic Registration Information Center, which as a private entity isn’t a defendant or bound by the same federal laws as the states, did not respond to phone and email inquiries for this report.
ERIC’s website says:
“Each member submits its voter registration and motor vehicle licensee data. The data includes names, addresses, date of birth, last four digits of the Social Security number. Private data such as date of birth and the last four digits of the Social Security number are protected using a cryptographic one-way hash and then transmitted to ERIC.”
In return, each member state gets reports from ERIC that show voters who have moved within the state, voters who have moved out of state, voters who have died, duplicate registrations in the same state, and individuals who are potentially eligible to vote but are not yet registered or who appear to have voted twice within the state in the prior federal election, voted in more than one state in the prior federal election, or who voted on behalf of a deceased voter in the prior federal election, according to the ERIC website.
ERIC counts 32 states as members, plus the District of Columbia. Kaardal said the Thomas More Society may move on similar lawsuits in Virginia, Florida, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, which also shared the same information.
Besides the four states being sued, the 28 other states that belong to ERIC include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s spokesperson, Angela Benander, told The Daily Signal that she isn’t familiar with the specifics of the suit against Michigan, but indicated the More Society’s allegations were “misinformation.”
“We have not been served this lawsuit and so decline to comment on it at this time, but we want all citizens to know that purveyors of misinformation continue filing meritless lawsuits to get media attention and undermine citizens’ well-placed faith in Michigan’s elections and American democracy,” Benander told The Daily Signal in an email response.
Officials from the Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Office and from the Wisconsin Elections Commission did not respond to phone and email inquiries from The Daily Signal.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, through the Chan-Zuckerberg Foundation, gave $69.5 million to the Center for Election Innovation and Research to spend on election administration during the 2020 election.