MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — Alabama’s incoming Secretary of State and the current officeholder disagree over whether Alabama should stay in a multi-state voter registration database.

Secretary of State-Elect Wes Allen sent a letter to the Electronic Registration Information Center, or ERIC, notifying them Alabama will be withdrawing once he takes office.

ERIC is a 32-state voter registration partnership. Those states share data, like names, addresses and birthdays to ensure voters in one state are not also voting in another state. Allen says that data collection raises privacy concerns.

“We’re concerned about sensitive data, full names, dates of birth, partial social security numbers, even for minors approaching the age of 18. We’re concerned about that, and we feel like we can do that as a state,” Allen said.

Allen says during his 18 months campaigning, voters told him they want to leave ERIC.

“This issue is part of my campaign promise to remove us from ERIC and I’m planning on keeping my word,” Allen said.

Allen says he’s confident in Alabama’s Boards of Registrars to maintain that data. He also notes the state passed a law last year to use the U.S. Postal Service Change of Address Database to maintain voter rolls, which will take effect in 2025.

Current Secretary of State John Merrill says leaving ERIC could reduce the chances of catching voter fraud.

“As a matter of fact we turned 12 cases over to the AG’s office two weeks ago because of the relationship we have with ERIC,” Merrill said.

Merrill says his office is currently waiting for final information from another state in ERIC to turn in at least 10 more cases to the Attorney General.

Merrill also brushed off privacy concerns, considering the information sent to ERIC is encrypted and publicly available anyway.

“Only people who have lack of knowledge of ERIC, what ERIC is about, what it actually means would express those concerns,” Merrill said.

Allen says he intends to send another letter to ERIC once he’s inaugurated Jan. 16, 2023 to officially leave the database. The state spends $25,000 a year to participate.

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