Florida's 67 county election supervisors are seeking a change in the election laws in the upcoming legislative session, in hopes of joining the Electronic Registration Information Center.
ERIC is a non-profit organization that helps states improve voter roll accuracy and access to voter registration data. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have joined since its formation by the non-partisan Pew Charitable Trusts in 2012. As a result is the revelation that one in eight voter registration records is inaccurate.
“Our top priority is for Florida to join ERIC,” says Escambia County Supervisor of Elections David Stafford, who serves as the legislative chair for the Florida Association of Supervisors of Elections. He told the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee this week that ERIC does two main things.
“One, is to identify the cross-state movers, in-state movers, state duplicates, and deceased persons,” Stafford said. “On the other side, identify potential applicants, citizens over the age of 18, and then the participating states are required to reach out to those voters and offer them the opportunity to register to vote.”
The Legislature has rejected past attempts to join ERIC, and Gov. Rick Scott vetoed a bill three years ago that would have exempted the email addresses of voters from disclosure. But Stafford maintains that since its inception, ERIC has identified more than a million voters who have changed states.
Florida joining ERIC was floated during the 2016 legislative session, but nothing concrete was placed up for consideration. Stafford says in the next session, a formal bill could be introduced if needed.
“There has been over the years some question as to whether or not legislation is required, or if the state Division of Elections could actually undertake it on its own,” Stafford said. “I think that we’ve reached the conclusion that we’d like some legislative mandate to be able to move forward.”
Stafford also renewed a request to make voters' personal information, such as home addresses and birth dates, exempt from disclosure under Florida’s public records laws.
“We think that, on both sides of the aisle, that this is something both parties and the citizens of the state of Florida can get behind,” said Stafford. “Everybody wants fair and accurate elections, and this would go a long ways towards making sure the voter rolls in the state of Florida are as up to date as possible.”
That likely would face opposition again from the First Amendment Foundation. Director Barbara Petersen was not available for comment.