Alabama secretary of state unveils new voter roll system after leaving national database

Alabama Secretary of State Wes Allen delivers a speech during inaugural ceremonies Jan. 16 in Montgomery, Ala. / Alabama Reflector Photo by Stew Milne
Alabama Secretary of State Wes Allen delivers a speech during inaugural ceremonies Jan. 16 in Montgomery, Ala. / Alabama Reflector Photo by Stew Milne

Alabama Secretary of State Wes Allen said the state would launch its own database of registered voters after withdrawing from a national one earlier this year.

Allen unveiled the Alabama Voter Integrity Database on Monday to manage the state's registered voter rolls, completing a goal to replace the Electronic Registration Information Center — commonly referred to by its acronym ERIC — system the secretary of state withdrew from at the beginning of the year.

"This is going to be an Alabama-based system," Allen said. "This is not going to be something that we send to some private nonprofit, third-party vendor, out of state. It is going to be something that we control, that we have access to at all times."

Observers said Monday that Allen seemed to simply be creating a newer version of the system he left behind.

"The thing that struck me was that he is trying to recreate the ERIC system," said Kathy Jones, president of the League of Women Voters of Alabama, referring to Allen. "That system is owned and operated by the secretaries of states of the member states. It is not a third-party nonprofit that he mentioned."

(READ MORE: Voter registrars in Alabama learning new version of election system)

According to a handout provided by the office, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency will identify registered voters in Alabama who have moved and obtained a driver's license or a nondriver identification in another state. Thus far, the secretary of state's office found more than 8,000 people who received driver's licenses from other states, making them ineligible to vote in Alabama's elections.

The system will also use the National Change of Address File to compare it against the Alabama voter rolls to identify people who should be removed from the registry after moving out of state. In comparing the state's voter registration list against those change-of-address lists maintained by the U.S. Postal Service, Allen's office has found more than 30,000 active registered voters who have moved out of Alabama, he said.

It will use the Social Security Death Index to remove people who have passed away from the state's voter rolls.

Finally, the state will reach out to other states for a memorandum of understanding for access to their voter rolls to identify those who have registered to vote in other states but are also registered to vote in Alabama. By comparing the respective lists, the state can isolate the individuals who are registered to vote in multiple states.

(READ MORE: Georgia voters sign up in record numbers following change to automatic registration in 2016)

During Monday's news conference, Allen announced he has an agreement with states bordering Alabama, finding more than 8,500 voters who have registered to vote in those states, in addition to the people the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency identified. The new database will also serve as a tool to identify people who voted in Alabama but voted in other states at the same time.

"This will be an incredible tool in detecting voter fraud and protecting our elections," Allen said.

In addition to the bordering states of Georgia, Mississippi, Florida and Tennessee, Arkansas has also signed a memorandum of understanding with Alabama, Allen said Monday.

People found in the Social Security Death Index will be automatically removed from the state's voter rolls, but those found using the other three methods will be designated as inactive on the state's voter rolls and will be kept there for four years in keeping with the rules of the National Voter Registration Act.

Those individuals will also be sent a postcard to the address on file with the Secretary of State's Office, asking them to update their voter registration information or withdraw their registration if they have moved to another state or out of the United States.

Voters who show up at a polling place to vote must update their voter registration information before they will be allowed to vote.

Electronic Registration Information Center

The Electronic Registration Information Center was established in 2012 and uses motor vehicle information to locate people who have moved within a state or to different states, information that states can use to update their voter rolls. It also uses many of the systems the Alabama database will incorporate, such as the National Change of Address report, as well as track those who have died using their Social Security information.

The national database also provides reports on voter participation. which states can use to identify potential voter fraud.

"The more states sign on to ERIC, potentially, the better information exchanges there are so we can have cleaner voter rolls at the state level. ERIC is a very positive thing," said Mitchell Brown, a professor of political science at Auburn University.

(READ MORE: Texas is largest state to leave bipartisan national effort to prevent voter fraud)

Allen made removing Alabama from the system a cornerstone of his priorities for the office during his campaign last year.

The Alabama database is redundant, Jones said.

"There is nothing unique about the system he is creating, except for the fact that he has got only five states, and it is now just being created," Jones said.

It made sense that Alabama would start the agreements with states that are closer in proximity than others, but Brown wasn't sure how much interest Alabama would get, she said.

"I would imagine the ERIC states are happy to be part of ERIC," she said.


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