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Is Texas next up? Lawmakers clear the way for the state to leave voter data group ERIC

Voting booths are seen at Glass Elementary School's polling station in Eagle Pass, Texas, on Nov. 8, 2022.
Mark Felix
/
AFP via Getty Images
Voting booths are seen at Glass Elementary School's polling station in Eagle Pass, Texas, on Nov. 8, 2022.

Texas is on its way to being the latest — and largest — state to leave a bipartisan data sharing partnership that states across the country use to cross check their voter rolls.

Texas lawmakers on Monday gave final approval to Senate Bill 1070, which would seek to end the state's participation in the Electronic Registration Information Center, or ERIC. The legislation now heads to Gov. Greg Abbott.

Multiple GOP-led states have backed out of ERIC in response to conservative advocacy groups who have at times spread misinformation about the compact. Virginia on May 11 became the eighth state to announce its departure.

Senate Bill 1070, which was sponsored by Republican state Sen. Bryan Hughes, would push Texas into using an alternate system to update voter rolls, like checking to make sure voters aren't registered to vote in multiple states.

Hughes' legislation followed a series of discussions he had with right-wing activists about ERIC, as first detailed by the news site Votebeat. In one online meeting in October, Hughes told the activists there had been no evidence of wrongdoing on behalf of ERIC in Texas. He described his concerns at the time as mostly political.

"The people who run ERIC are not people who line up with our values and so we need to have another alternative," he said. "Now, there is no evidence that ERIC is doing anything to Texas voter rolls. But we do know that the people running ERIC do not share our worldview."

ERIC is run by its bipartisan slate of member states. Hughes has not responded to multiple requests for comment about his bill.

Joyce LeBombard, president of the League of Women Voters of Texas, says her main concern is that the state will not immediately have another system to use to cross check its voter rolls.

"There is no other system to replace ERIC at this point," she said.

Ina statement in March, Texas election officials announced a "newly-created position" at the secretary of state's office "to develop and manage an interstate voter registration crosscheck program."

But LeBombard said creating a working system could take a lot of time. She said if there are serious issues with ERIC, member states should focus on improving the system instead of just leaving it altogether.

"It really relates back to conspiracy theories, misinformation and disinformation and back to 'the Big Lie,' " she said, referring to the lie that the 2020 election was stolen. "It's really a small group of people who are questioning it even though the system has been in place for over a decade and has been working successfully."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ashley Lopez
Ashley Lopez is a political correspondent for NPR based in Austin, Texas. She joined NPR in May 2022. Prior to NPR, Lopez spent more than six years as a health care and politics reporter for KUT, Austin's public radio station. Before that, she was a political reporter for NPR Member stations in Florida and Kentucky. Lopez is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and grew up in Miami, Florida.
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