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Donald Trump And Other Election Denial Groups Joined Forces To Enhance Voter Rolls

Conservative group joins attacks on partnership that improves voter rolls. (Photo: CNN)

Donald Trump and other election denial groups have joined forces to target the most effective method for accurately enhancing those voter rolls, according to a powerful conservative group that has launched multiple cases to push states to clean up their voter rolls.

Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch, speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland last month. (Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)

Bipartisan Coalition Of States To Ensure Election Security

A flawed report by Judicial Watch, whose leader Tom Fitton urged Trump to declare victory in 2020 before all the votes were counted, claimed that the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a bipartisan coalition of over two dozen states that exchange voter registration data to ensure election security, may have broken the law.

Fitton’s attack on Eric is part of a larger effort by Trump and organizations that support election fraud to persuade member states to quit the coalition, drawing harsh criticism from those who support voting rights and election experts like several GOP officials.

The group erroneously accuses Eric of being a “syndicate created by leftists” in a 10-page, error-filled white paper that was published on its website on March 9. It also claims that Eric has been “much more effective at swelling voter registration lists than at keeping them clean.”

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Bipartisan Coalition Was Established To Maintain Current Voter Rolls

The non-partisan Campaign Legal Center’s chief voting rights attorney, Danielle Lang, told the Guardian that the white paper had many problems and “makes claims entirely based on conjecture, errors, and personal assaults.”

As there is no central clearinghouse for voter registration, Eric, which was founded in 2012 by seven states, including four run by Republicans, is the only data-sharing program for states. The consortium was established to maintain current voter registration lists, prevent potential voter fraud, and encourage voter registration.

Since last year, seven states with Republican governors—including Alabama, Florida, Missouri, and Ohio—have left Eric as conservatives and Trump has intensified their criticism of the group of states.

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Judicial Watch Has Been Concerned About Inflated Voting Rolls In Many States

On March 6, Trump urged GOP-led states to “immediately drop out of ERIC, the awful Voter Registration System that ‘pumps the rolls’ for Democrats and does nothing to clean them up” on his social media platform Truth Social.

Requests for a response from Fitton regarding the criticism of Eric by Judicial Watch went unanswered.

The anti-Eric campaign for Judicial Watch comes after years of Fitton election campaigns that voting rights advocates claim are seriously flawed. Under Trump’s presidency, Judicial Watch’s overall revenues increased with the aid of significant right-wing donors from $53 million in 2017 to $124 million in 2021.

Before launching its current attacks on Eric, Judicial Watch had long complained about inflated voting rolls in states and threatened legal action if states didn’t do anything.

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Eric “has shown to be the most effective instrument for assuring cleaner and more precise rolls,” Lang emphasized. Eric’s best ally would be Judicial Watch if it truly cared about strong list upkeep.

Judicial Watch has had some success in court with its cases regarding excessively large voting rolls. Somewhat ironically, Kentucky joined Eric as a part of a settlement of a lawsuit filed in 2017 by Judicial Watch and the Public Interest Law Fund alleging that the state had neglected to purge its voter records.

Judicial Watch has been “trading in misrepresentations about voter fraud” for many years, according to Eliza Sweren-Becker, a voting rights attorney with the Brennan Center for Justice, who spoke to the Guardian.

She claimed that “the group has regularly used false information in legal proceedings attempting to compel aggressive voter purges.”

Fitton’s reputation as a defender of election integrity was severely damaged by discoveries made by the House panel looking into January 6 in October. Fitton urged Trump advisers in emails sent days before the 2020 election to encourage Trump to claim victory at midnight on election day before all ballots had been counted in crucial states, according to one hearing.

Fitton wrote a memo on October 31 suggesting that Trump should just say, “We had an election today, and I won,” on election night. On election day, Fitton claimed to have just spoken to Trump and pushed his plan once more. At the panel hearing, the Democratic congresswoman Zoe Lofgren made the memo public.

Fitton is hardly the only well-known Trump ally to criticize Eric. The America First Policy Institute, which has close ties to numerous senior Trump officials, released a letter last month from Ken Blackwell, a former Ohio secretary of state who oversees the organization’s “election integrity” initiative, urging states to reject Eric.

A government source familiar with her efforts claimed that Cleta Mitchell, a senior legal fellow at the Conservative Partnership Institute who was on Trump’s call in January 2021 in which he urged Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, to “find 11,780” votes to reverse Joe Biden’s victory in the state, “is very opposed to Eric.”

Last year, Mitchell held a podcast in which he described Eric as “the engine behind swollen voter rolls.”

Some past secretaries of state are vehemently defending Eric’s significance in enhancing election security and integrity in spite of the criticism. The former Alabama secretary of state John Merrill, who left office before the state withdrew from Eric, told the Guardian that “separating your state from Eric will surely lead to vulnerabilities that could result in severe election integrity concerns.”

According to my work with Eric, it is now the best tool available for ensuring election integrity in the area of double-checking voter participation and dual voter registration in the same election cycle, Merrill continued.

Merrill, a paying member of Judicial Watch, said when asked about the organization’s white paper: “Tom is very well regarded in conservative circles. Yet occasionally, making unfounded accusations that harm your organization’s reputation and its mission can also be detrimental. Unproven information is included in the White Paper.

Fitton and other opponents of Eric have claimed that the consortium is biased politically against David Becker, who was instrumental in the organization’s establishment while working on election-related issues at the Pew Charitable Trusts, one of Eric’s early backers.Former Justice Department voting

rights attorney Becker vehemently refuted accusations of partisan bias.

According to Becker, Eric is “one of the rare nonpartisan success stories in the politicized world of elections.”

The attacks against Eric, in Becker’s opinion, were consistent with the growing election denialist agenda.

“Election deniers seek to remove these safeguards that preserve election security,” he said. “They do this so that election losers may fabricate stories of stolen elections and garner more money from voters who are genuinely dissatisfied in their candidates.

As Fitton has progressed within the conservative ecosystem, Judicial Watch has undoubtedly had success garnering significant sums of money from conservative donors and foundations. According to the Center for Media and Democracy, significant conservative donors like the Schwab Charitable Trust, the Sarah Scaife Foundation, Donors Trust, and others have given Judicial Watch six- and seven-figure sums of money since 2010.

Fitton’s influence and access to wealthy donors increased last year when he was elected president of the influential and covert Council for National Policy, which is made up of hundreds of religious conservatives, wealthy donors, and activists. The Council meets sporadically each year to discuss strategies, objectives, and operations.

Fitton is also enlisting Judicial Watch to support Trump against the 34-count indictment brought by the Manhattan district attorney for a conspiracy to pay Stormy Daniels $130,000 in hush money during the 2016 campaign.

Fitton informed his 515,000 YouTube subscribers in a Judicial Watch mailing and video on March 31 that the organization would use a variety of tactics, including “court actions,” to defend Trump against what he described as a conspiratorial “brazen attempt to rig the 2024 election for Biden and the Democrats.”

Fitton’s campaign to support Trump in his defense against the indictment appears to be in line with Judicial Watch’s current offensive against Eric.

According to Lang of the Campaign Legal Center, “Judicial Watch has jumped on the bandwagon of the most current election denial conspiracy theories and come out against the Electronic Information Registration Center.” “This is all about politics,”

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