By Josephine Walker
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Virginia on Thursday became the eighth Republican-led U.S. state to leave a non-partisan voting-integrity partnership that has been undermined by unsubstantiated far-right charges that it favored Democrats.
Member states of the Electronic Registration Information Center, or ERIC, partnership share voter registration and identification data to avoid having people registered to vote in multiple states.
While voter fraud is vanishingly rare in U.S. elections, the nation’s state-by-state elections system raises the risk that people who move from one state to another may remain registered to vote in two states at once.
Virginia follows Ohio, Iowa, Florida, Missouri, West Virginia, Louisiana and Alabama in leaving the partnership.
At its peak, ERIC included 33 states plus the District of Columbia.
There are now only seven Republican-led states among the 25 remaining in the compact. One of those, Texas, is due to withdraw in October.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump’s false claims that his 2020 election defeat was the result of widespread fraud have been echoed by many of his Republican allies. Trump said without evidence in a March post on his Truth Social site that ERIC “pumps the rolls” for Democrats.
Many Republican-led states have also tightened voting rules in recent years in what they describe as an effort to prevent fraud.
Virginia’s commissioner of elections, Susan Beals, said in a May letter seen by Reuters that “uncertain costs resulting from the exit of ~20% of ERIC members” were one of the state’s reasons for leaving.
Beals, an appointee of Republican Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, also said ERIC’s mandate has expanded beyond its original intent of improving the accuracy of voter rolls.
ERIC’s executive director, Shane Hamlin, said Virginia’s withdrawal takes effect Thursday.
“We will continue our work on behalf of our remaining member states in improving the accuracy of America’s voter rolls and increasing access to voter registration for all eligible citizens,” Hamlin said.
Alice Clapman, a voting-rights attorney at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, said the departures illustrate the self-reinforcing power of election misinformation, with some states now citing others’ earlier departures as reasons to leave the group.
“It really exposes the hypocrisy of states that are talking the most about voter fraud,” Clapman said. “They’re inflating concerns about voter fraud and are also pulling out of and damaging the best tool that states have to detect voter fraud.”
(Reporting by Josephine Walker; Editing by Scott Malone and Andy Sullivan)