Alabama Secretary of State Wes Allen delivers his inaugural address during inauguration ceremonies at the Alabama State Capitol on Jan. 16, 2023 in Montgomery, Alabama. (Photo/Stew Milne)
Alabama Secretary of State Wes Allen Monday 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 (AVID) to manage the state’s registered voter rolls, completing a goal to replace the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) system that 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.”
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Observers said Monday that Allen seemed to simply be creating a newer version of the system he left behind.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.”
According to a handout provided by the office, Alabama Law Enforcement Agency will identify registered voters in Alabama who have moved and obtained a driver’s license or a non-driver 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 list maintained by the U.S. Postal Service, Allen said that his office has found more than 30,000 active registered voters who have moved out of Alabama.
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.
Allen said Monday that Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Florida and Tennessee, have signed memoranda of understanding with Alabama.
During Monday’s news conference, Allen announced that he has an agreement with those bordering Alabama, finding more than 8,500 voters who have registered to vote in those states, in addition to the people that ALEA has identified. It 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.
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 that is 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 country.
Voters who show up at a polling place to vote must update their voter registration information before they will be allowed to vote.
ERIC was established in 2012 and uses motor vehicle information to locate those who have moved with a state or to different states, information that states can use to update their voter rolls. It also uses many of the systems that AVID will incorporate, such as the National Change of Address report, as well as track those who have died using their social security information.
ERIC 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.
Allen made ERIC, and removing Alabama from the ERIC system, a cornerstone of his priorities for the office during his campaign last yet. On a conservative radio talk show, he made a false claim that ERIC was launched with funding from George Soros, the liberal billionaire and frequent target of the right.
“The implementation of AVID to help maintain our voter rolls is incredibly important,” Allen said Monday. “We are the first state in the nation to implement a system like this, and I am confident that we, as a result of AVID, will have the cleanest voter rolls that we have ever had.”
Jones said AVID was redundant.
“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.
Brown said it made sense that Alabama would start the agreements with states that are closer in proximity than others, but she wasn’t sure how much interest they would get.
“I would imagine the ERIC states are happy to be part of ERIC,” she said.
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