Before Republican state lawmakers launch a fishing expedition at taxpayers’ expense through data that may contain sensitive personal information in their effort to identify Pennsylvania voters who may have cast “illegal” ballots in the previous two elections, they should consult ERIC.

As a story by the statewide news group Spotlight PA notes, Pennsylvania has spent $403,904 over the past six years for the services offered by the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a non-profit corporation governed by 30 states and the District of Columbia that constantly analyzes data to remove outdated registrations from voter databases while offering encrypted security and protection for personal information.

Pennsylvania, as well as neighboring Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, Ohio and Virginia are among the 30 states and District of Columbia that hold memberships and a seat on the board of directors of ERIC, an operation that works every day to fulfill the important task of keeping voting rolls up to date in accordance with the law.

Each member government submits statewide data, including its voter registration and motor vehicle licensee data, to ERIC. The data includes names, addresses, date-of-birth and last four digits of Social Security numbers. The sensitive private data — date-of-birth and Social Security numbers – are first encrypted and separated into an anonymous form before the remaining data is entered into the ERIC database.

Using ERIC’s database tools, each member government regularly receives reports when a voter moves to a different address, changes their name or dies. The system also flags duplicate registrations in the same state. Member governments can use these reports to either notify the voters to update their voter registrations or ultimately verify or revise their local voting registration rolls.

Statewide administrators and directors of elections comprise ERIC’s Board of Directors. The organization also has recruited experts to serve on its Research Advisory Board and its Privacy and Technology Advisory Board.

Senate Republicans here in Pennsylvania have claimed there is a need to investigate the validity of ballots cast during the previous elections and have approved a subpoena seeking access to voter information.

In response to objections from Democrats and election security experts, Republicans have said any personal data the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee obtained through a subpoena will be stored safely and any vendor contracted to analyze private voter information will sign nondisclosure agreements.

For now, Republicans have agreed to hold off on hiring a vendor to analyze the voter data until after the Commonwealth Court weighs in on challenges to the Senate committee’s authority to enforce the subpoena.

We have yet to see where all of this goes from here, but for now, it’s reassuring to know that ERIC is on the job, helping to keep our elections free and fair.

NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher, top newsroom executives and community members of the editorial board. Today’s was written by Digital Editor Dave Hilliard.

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