Adams: Renew ERIC membership for one year, while building alternatives Skip to content

Adams: Renew ERIC membership for one year, while building alternatives

Caught between two bad alternatives, the Secretary of State decides to stay the course for now.

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Via press release from the SOS office

Secretary of State Michael Adams issued the following statement regarding Kentucky’s continued participation in the multi-state Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) partnership:

“Among the many scandals in this Office just prior to my term was my predecessor’s failure to properly maintain our voter rolls. In 2019, I ran for Secretary of State, and won, on a promise to restore integrity and public confidence in this Office, and in Kentucky’s elections. Like all government records, voter rolls should be accurate. Dirty voter rolls create an avenue for election fraud, and they can contribute to longer lines at the polls.

“In 2017, the conservative organization Judicial Watch sued my predecessor in federal court in Frankfort for failure to follow the law in keeping our rolls accurate. The parties ultimately reached a settlement that required, among other things, that Kentucky step up its compliance efforts, and one way it did so was to join the multi-state partnership Electronic Registration Information Center in 2019. ERIC is a bipartisan organization of chief election officials in various states; it assists member states in procuring federal data like National Change of Address, and in sharing states’ data among each other. Its work is funded by these states, not by private individuals.

“Since I became Secretary of State, we have purged from our rolls approximately 330,000 voters who have moved away, passed away or been put away. ERIC membership has contributed to this achievement by assisting us in locating voters who moved away from Kentucky, and re-registered to vote in other states. ERIC has also helped us locate voters who moved out-of-state and then passed away, information that Kentucky’s Office of Vital Statistics cannot provide.

“Prior to last year, ERIC was not controversial. Unfortunately, like any effort at bipartisanship in recent history, it has come under attack. I have consistently defended ERIC against falsehoods about its funding and operations, even risking my re-nomination for this Office to do so. ERIC has helped Kentucky comply with the law and conduct fair elections. While my administration will never cave to conspiracy theorists, it nevertheless is true that the value of ERIC to us going forward is a debatable question.

“Seven states, roughly a quarter of ERIC’s membership, have recently announced their intention to leave, or already have done so. This is problematic for us in two ways: one, it will cause our annual dues to spike; two, with these departures, only one of our neighboring states will remain a member of ERIC. Because interstate relocation to and from Kentucky disproportionately involves our neighboring states, Kentucky is about to pay a lot more money to get a lot less information.

“So, should we quit ERIC? The first question is, can we? I have asked the presiding judge over Judicial Watch v. Grimes to clarify whether we are obligated to remain in ERIC. I will not withdraw Kentucky from ERIC if the Court does not permit it.

“Should the Court permit us to depart ERIC, we still need time to do our due diligence, locate the availability of alternatives to receive the necessary information, assess the costs of those alternatives, and determine whether authorizing legislation is necessary to pursue them. The U.S. Department of Justice, which intervened in the Judicial Watch case against the then-Secretary of State, has offered to assist us in reviewing alternatives, and I welcome their collaboration; receipt of information from federal agencies like the U.S. Postal Service and the Social Security Administration would greatly help.

“Given the mess I inherited and the years of work it has taken, and will take, to fully clean up our rolls, it would be irresponsible to simply quit ERIC with no backup plan, as my primary opponents demanded. It would be equally irresponsible to remain in ERIC permanently, regardless of value to Kentucky taxpayers, in order to defray the other member states’ costs, as the Kentucky Democratic Party demands we do. Both the far right and the far left are wrong, and the right answer is in the middle. Consequently, Kentucky will remain in ERIC for one more year, unless it disbands before then. In that time, I will consult with other secretaries of state, review possible alternatives to ERIC, and determine whether statutory changes would be necessary to adopt such alternatives. I will work in good faith with officials in both political parties, here in Kentucky and federally, and if I remain in Office for the 2024 General Assembly, I will work with legislators of both political parties to develop other ways to continue the progress we have made in cleaning up our rolls.”

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