COLUMBUS, Ohio — AUGUST 24: Ohio Ballot Board Chair, Secretary of State Frank LaRose at the Ballot Board meeting to certify the language for Issue 1, the proposed constitutional amendment entitled “The Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety” and Issue 2 entitled “An Act to Control and Regulate Adult Use Cannabis,” August 24, 2023, at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal)

BY:  Ohio Capital Journal

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose has struck a deal to share voter data with three other Republican-led states. The agreement comes roughly six months after LaRose chose to exit a much larger, bipartisan interstate compact known as ERIC.

Ohio’s new agreements give the state access to interstate voter information on its own terms. When LaRose announced Ohio was backing out of the compact, he praised that “a al carte” model.

But even with three new partner states, Ohio will get a lot less of that information than it got from ERIC.

LaRose’s new deal

Under the agreements, Ohio will share voter data with elections officials in Florida, Virginia and West Virginia. Those states in turn will give Ohio access to their voter rolls. However, LaRose’s announcement offers scant details about scope and terms of the agreements.

In a press release, LaRose touted “state-specific data sharing and security protocols.”

“Ohio took the lead on this election integrity project,” LaRose said, “and it’s only one aspect of the work we’re doing to keep our elections honest as we prepare for the next presidential election year.”

Unlike the previous the data sharing system, LaRose inked three separate agreements with each individual state. The secretary said the data will allow both states to identify cross state voter fraud and duplicate registrations. Ohio Capital Journal has requested those agreements, but they were not immediately made available.

Amanda Grandjean, a deputy assistant and senior advisor in LaRose’s office, said they anticipate additional agreements with other states.

“These new agreements came from a 27-state working group that formed earlier this year in hopes of finding a more durable and accountable solution to cross-state data sharing that fit each state’s individual needs,” Grandjean said.

Grandjean led negotiations on the three existing deals. She expressed confidence more will follow as states address “legal and cybersecurity protocols.”

The deal they left behind

Previously, Ohio was part of ERIC, the Electronic Registration Information Center. State elections officials lead the organization, and it pools voter data from member states. Using that combined database and information from federal sources, ERIC helped members maintain accurate voter rolls.

It also enabled them to identify voters illegally casting ballots in different states for the same election. Last October, for instance, LaRose touted finding 75 incidents of alleged multi-state voter fraud.

As part of ERIC’s efforts, though, member states had to encourage eligible but unregistered voters to register. In his letter to ERIC announcing Ohio’s decision to pull out, LaRose alluded to those requirements.

Conservative media seized on those demands, describing them as “a left-wing voter registration drive.” ERIC member states fall all along the spectrum of conservative to liberal. Two of the most left-leaning states in the country, California and New York, have never joined.

Since 2022, eight states, all of them Republican-led, have left ERIC. Texas’ resignation from the organization will take effect in October. After that, the organization will include 24 states and the District of Columbia.

At a panel on election policy last month hosted by the National Conference of State Legislatures, even one of the conservative leaning panelists criticized the exodus. Matt Germer from the R Street Institute argued conservative states should reform ERIC rather than leave.

“Instead, what we’ve seen are a number of states throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”

But in LaRose’s announcement of his office’s new agreements, he took a parting shot at the organization.

“This is a major new development,” LaRose insisted, “as states look to move beyond the old model of sharing voter data through an unaccountable third-party vendor.”

Follow OCJ Reporter Nick Evans on Twitter.

Nick Evans

Nick Evans has spent the past seven years reporting for NPR member stations in Florida and Ohio. He got his start in Tallahassee, covering issues like redistricting, same sex marriage and medical marijuana. Since arriving in Columbus in 2018, he has covered everything from city council to football. His work on Ohio politics and local policing have been featured numerous times on NPR.


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