Alabama's new GOP Secretary of State Wes Allen was one of the few 2020 election deniers that won his race as the state's top election official, and his first act is pulling the Yellowhammer State out of a bipartisan national compact to share voter roll information.
On his first day in office on Monday, Allen terminated Alabama’s membership in the Electronic Registration Information Center, a consortium of roughly 30 states that share data about their voter rolls to keep them up to date, citing concerns about data privacy.
“I made a promise to the people of Alabama that ending our state’s relationship with the ERIC organization would be my first official act as Secretary of State,” he said.
Allen’s quick move, fueled by right-wing conspiracies about ERIC that spread last year, alarmed election administration professionals.
“Anything that makes elections more secure is a target for the election deniers, and the attacks on ERIC are just another tactic in this effort,” said David Becker, the executive director of the Center for Election Innovation & Research, an organization that works closely with election administrators.
Becker, who is a non-voting member of ERIC’s board after helping spearhead its launch a decade ago, attributed the decision to the lies about election administration spread by election deniers.
Allen first promised he would leave ERIC on the campaign trail last year, shortly after the conservative website Gateway Pundit published a series of stories falsely tying ERIC to George Soros, the progressive-leaning billionaire. Those stories, which called ERIC a “left wing voter registration drive disguised as voter roll clean up,” spread among Republicans who were already fanning other conspiracies about election administration, helping turn ERIC into a target of far-right organizations. Allen himself referred to Soros in explaining his hostility to ERIC in early 2022.
ERIC is financially supported by its member states, including many staunchly red ones that are governed by Republicans, such as South Carolina and Texas, as well as many blue states. The current chair of ERIC, Mandi Grandjean, is the deputy assistant secretary of state of Ohio under Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Trump-endorsed Republican.
John Merrill, Alabama’s outgoing secretary of state whom Allen replaced, and a Republican known for his own poor record on voting rights—he threatened to go after hundreds voters who mistakenly thought they could vote in a partisan runoff, failed to inform voters of their rights, and lashed out at critics of the state’s voting rights record—steadfastly defended ERIC throughout 2022.
“This continued narrative of ERIC being a George Soros system is untrue. ERIC was not founded nor funded by George Soros, and to claim otherwise is either dishonest or misinformed,” Merrill said in November. Becker echoed that characterization on Wednesday. “Putting aside the nature of those attacks, it’s just 100 percent false,” he said.
Tammy Patrick, the CEO of Election Center, a national organization that represents election administrators, stressed that ERIC was built to meet the practical needs of officials from both parties. “From its inception ERIC has been a bipartisan effort,” she told Bolts on Wednesday. “The policies and functionality were all created taking into account the perspectives of election administrators from across the political spectrum.
Increasingly, Secretaries of States in red state offices are being elected to destroy election integrity, not to protect it. The eventuality is that state elections will be so one sided in both candidate qualifications and vote qualifications that Republican legislatures will simply take over the state's "broken" election system and just declare GOP candidates to win, all the time.
At the very least, so few people will vote that Republicans will win anyway, and that's the point.