The Phoenix Flyer

Secretary of State Byrd up for confirmation; elaborates on why FL left national voter verification system

By: - March 29, 2023 12:54 pm

Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd, appearing before a Senate committee on his confirmation. March 29, 2023. Credit: Florida Channel.

As a way to improve the accuracy of Florida’s voter registration rolls, Florida joined the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) in 2019. The organization shares data with member states to keep voter rolls accurate.

But earlier this month, Secretary of State Cord Byrd announced that the state was withdrawing from what was then a 30-state consortium, saying that its proposals to secure data and eliminate “partisan tendencies” had been rejected. Byrd also said that the proposed changes made by a “working group” of states for the organization failed.

Byrd, a Republican appointed last May by Gov. Ron DeSantis, appeared before a Senate committee Wednesday related to his confirmation hearing as Florida’s Secretary of State. The News Service of Florida reported that shortly after taking office, Byrd refused to say whether Joe Biden won the election, pointing to “irregularities in certain states.”

The full Senate will vote to confirm the appointment — or not.

As to ERIC, “What essentially the states out of the working group wanted was the ability to use ERIC a la carte, meaning to pick and choose the things that were useful to our state,” Byrd said, without elaborating.

Florida wasn’t the only state to leave the organization. Missouri and West Virginia also announced on the same day that they were leaving the consortium, and Ohio followed suit two weeks ago. Most if not all of these states are Republican controlled.

Byrd insisted that the state won’t lose a beat by dropping out of ERIC.

”For anyone who thinks that we cannot continue the work of voter roll list maintenance, that is simply not true,” he said, adding that his office was doing some of the same work in checking voter registration data from other states through the federal government and from other states, and that he has tasked a team within the Division of Election to create an “ERIC 2.0.”

As recently as January, the Division of Elections had touted the help that ERIC had provided. A report released in January from the state’s Office of Election Crimes and Security said it had used the group’s information to identify hundreds of voters who appeared to have voted in Florida and in another ERIC member state in the same election.

Byrd also said that ERIC wasn’t able to provide complete voter registration information because some of the nation’s biggest states like California and New York were not part of the network.

Byrd also defended the fact that the Florida Legislature has passed two major election reform bills over the past two legislative sessions, despite the fact that top Republicans have boasted about how smooth the elections in 2020 and 2022 have gone.

“One of the reasons Florida has maintained itself as the gold standard is because we continue to evaluate our election processes,” he said. “We don’t rest on our laurels.”

House Speaker Paul Renner told reporters last week that there will be a new elections bill coming this session, though it hasn’t been filed yet. He didn’t detail what will be in that proposal.

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Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has covered politics and government in Florida for more than two decades. Most recently he is the former politics reporter for Bay News 9. He has also worked at Florida Politics, Creative Loafing and WMNF Radio in Tampa. He was also part of the original staff when the Florida Phoenix was created in 2018.