A national organization devoted to improving the accuracy of voter registration lists flagged thousands of potentially dual-registered voters in the Tampa Bay area, and far more statewide, in about 27 months while Florida was a member — until Gov. Ron DeSantis withdrew from the program.
The voter registration alerts came from the Electronic Registration Information Center, or ERIC, an 11-year-old association of states who share registration data to track down deceased and dual-registered voters or those who have moved between states.
After years of urging from local election supervisors, Florida joined ERIC at the beginning of 2021.
DeSantis, who has proclaimed his devotion to wiping out vote fraud and even created a new law enforcement agency with great fanfare to track down illegal voters, said at the time that membership in ERIC “will ensure our voter rolls are up-to-date” and “reduce the potential for voter fraud.”
But Secretary of State Cord Byrd, a DeSantis appointee, withdrew in March, citing what he called “concerns about data privacy and blatant partisanship.”
That happened after Donald Trump and a right-wing website, Gateway Pundit, began attacking the organization last year, claiming it was “a left wing voter registration drive disguised as voter roll clean up,” backed by liberal financier George Soros — all false, according to its organizers.
ERIC was formed by officials of the member states, with help from the Pew Charitable Trusts, in 2012, and has since been funded by those states.
Nonetheless, the claims drew social media attention spurred by the 2020 election denial movement, sparking a wave of red states withdrawing; it now has 29 member states.
In January, a report from DeSantis’s new Office of Election Crimes and Security said information from ERIC had enabled it to identify about 1,177 voters who may have voted in Florida and other member states.
Many more were flagged for checking and potential action by local supervisors.
During the state’s ERIC membership, it sent alerts of 20,419 potentially improperly registered voters in Pinellas. Of those, 2,771 have been removed from voter rolls and 13,906 placed on inactive status — they remain registered but could be removed if they aren’t active in future election cycles.
Pinellas spokeswoman Ashley McKnight-Taylor noted the inactive and removed voters could have been because of the ERIC alert or because of the county elections office’s routine list maintenance work.
Hillsborough received alerts on 27,899 voters, of whom 3,375 have been removed and 20,344 put on the inactive list.
Polk received alerts on 13,159 voters, with 1,634 removed from the rolls and 9,874 made inactive; Pasco received 10,968 alerts, with 7,548 becoming inactive and 1,846 removed.
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Hillsborough has about 924,399 registered voters, Polk 464,576, Pinellas 680,388, Pasco 407,335, and 14.5 million statewide.
Polk Elections Supervisor Lori Edwards and others emphasized that voters flagged by ERIC are not automatically removed or made inactive — instead, the local elections offices go through their normal process of checking records and contacting the voter first.
According to state records, during Florida’s membership, 50,358 voters flagged by ERIC were removed from the rolls after being found to have out-of-state addresses; 10,097 voters were removed as deceased; and 21,607 were found to be dual-registered within Florida.
Edwards, a Republican and a long-time ERIC advocate, called ERIC “a powerful tool to help identify at least potential voter fraud” and “a unique opportunity for us to gather that information from other states.”
“What was unique to ERIC was the data when somebody in another member state registered to vote or died there — for that we had few other sources.”