American at a polling booth

Florida’s March 6 withdrawal from a nonprofit, multi-state database created to ensure accurate voter rolls and avoid duplicate voting shocked and disappointed many local election officials, including Monroe County Supervisor of Elections Joyce Griffin.

“I was stunned. We were all stunned,” Griffin told the Keys Weekly on March 21. “All the supervisors in Florida had fought for our state to join ERIC (Electronic Registration Information Center). But we didn’t know Florida was withdrawing until 15 minutes before it was announced. I don’t know why the governor and Florida secretary of state Cord Byrd did this. I’m really sorry that it happened, but I have to accept what I can’t change.”

Byrd announced Florida’s withdrawal from ERIC in a March 6 press release that alluded to partisan leadership on the board of the nonprofit and questions about data security.

“Today’s announcement follows efforts led by Florida over the past year to reform ERIC through attempts to secure data and eliminate ERIC’s partisan tendencies, all of which were rejected,” Byrd’s press release states. “Withdrawing from ERIC will ensure the data privacy of Florida voters is protected. Florida is joined in withdrawing from ERIC Membership today by the states of Missouri and West Virginia.

“As secretary of state, I have an obligation to protect the personal information of Florida’s citizens, which the ERIC agreement requires us to share. Florida has tried to back reforms to increase protections, but these protections were refused. Therefore, we have lost confidence in ERIC.”

But those statements from Byrd came just weeks after he had praised ERIC for helping Florida  identify voters who had voted in more than one state, according to a March 6 article in Politico.

“Byrd told members of a legislative panel that the information was used in the arrest of a woman last November who had allegedly voted in both Alaska and Florida,” Politico’s Zach Montellaro and Gary Fineout write. 

“‘We do derive valid information from ERIC in order to do list maintenance,’ Byrd told legislators.

“DeSantis himself pushed for Florida to join the group in 2019 after former Gov. Rick Scott had blocked it. The likely presidential contender has made ‘election integrity’ a talking point in his speeches and pushed to create a special unit to investigate election related crimes, including voter fraud. DeSantis even praised ERIC in passing during a press conference last summer as an important tool in that toolbox,” the Politico article continues.

Yet the multi-state partnership is now without one of its leading partners in Florida, which has one of the highest populations of seasonal residents.

Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.