As the parent of two very young adults who are coming of age at a time when social media is often their primary source of news about current events, I’ve had to spend a lot of effort teaching my kids how to be smart and discerning consumers of quality information. How to tell facts from fiction and identify intentional disinformation campaigns.
Unfortunately, that skill set doesn’t seem to be a prerequisite for employment in Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin’s Administration. Officials are increasingly relying on fact-free notions from the depths of social media and the internet to shape policy, endangering our democracy and undermining the credibility of our decision-making processes.
Most recently, Virginia Elections Commissioner Susan Beals quietly announced the state’s withdrawal from the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC). Founded in 2012, ERIC aims to ensure accurate voter rolls, enhance voter registration accessibility, improve efficiency, and reduce election costs. Sadly, ERIC has become a target of conspiracy theories propagated by the same groups responsible for baselessly perpetuating “The Big Lie” that Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election, which was supposedly stolen from him. Succumbing to pressure from MAGA election deniers, states like Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, West Virginia, and Texas have recently severed ties with ERIC, and Virginia is now following suit.
During a press conference, I accused Governor Youngkin of directing Beals to withdraw from ERIC based on unfounded conspiracy theories surrounding its governance and allegations of external manipulation or influence. When confronted with my assertions, the Governor’s spokesperson chose not to deny them, a silence that speaks volumes.
If Youngkin refuses to reject conspiracy theories, he proves himself unfit for the role of governor.
Joined by Senate Caucus Chair Mamie Locke and House Minority Leader Don Scott at the press conference, I also emphasized the legal implications of withdrawing from ERIC and condemned the ongoing conspiracy theories perpetuated by the Virginia GOP.
Virginia law mandates the comparison of voter registration data with neighboring states as a critical measure to ensure accuracy. However, abandoning ERIC would necessitate the creation of an entirely new system and somehow coordinating with neighboring states in time for future elections. This alternative approach involves negotiating individual agreements with each state, leading to less accuracy and consuming valuable time. Unsurprisingly, this follows the Republican pattern of undermining the election system, only to shift blame and assert that the system itself failed when issues arise.
Moreover, Beals’ resignation letter citing increased costs as the primary reason for withdrawal strains credulity. Mere months before pulling Virginia out of ERIC, Beals sang the programs praises in her annual
report to the Chairs of House and Senate Privileges and Elections Committees, noting: “The ERIC program membership fee from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022 was $37, 644. The data quality from the ERIC program is significantly better than other interstate exchange programs and any program that ELECT could operate in-house with existing resources. The ERIC member-ship costs are less than the costs incurred if ELECT were required to create and manage an in-house program resulting in the same quality of data.”
It is evident that collaborative programs like ERIC are cost-effective, as expenses are shared among multiple states. Venturing down this path alone would undoubtedly burden Virginia with significantly
Republicans in Virginia have repeatedly made baseless claims of voter fraud but have failed to produce any evidence to support their assertions. Nonetheless, they persist in pushing legislation that aims to hinder people’s voting rights, particularly those who are likely to vote for Democrats. It is a clear attempt to suppress the vote and disenfranchise voters.
The 2020 election was not stolen. It stood as one of the most secure elections in American history, devoid of widespread voter fraud or any evidence of manipulated votes impacting the outcome. The claims of voter fraud propagated by Republicans are simply false.
The decision of the Virginia GOP to withdraw from the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) serves as a smokescreen. ERIC, a nonpartisan organization, provides technical assistance to states in improving their election systems. There is no evidence linking ERIC to voter fraud, and withdrawing from the organization will not enhance election security.
The Virginia GOP’s decision to withdraw from ERIC stems from baseless conspiracy theories regarding voter fraud. These theories lack supporting evidence and should not guide policymaking.
The right to vote is the bedrock of our democracy. We must safeguard this right and ensure ease of access for all. The Virginia GOP’s attempts to suppress the right to vote are a threat to our democracy, and we must stand up to them.