part of our develop series on the
Electronic Registration Information Center
ERIC’s Friends in the Activist Left (Full Series)
Born in the Shadow | CEIR and ERIC
Secret meetings with election officials
CEIR and ERIC
David Becker left ERIC in 2016 to found the Center for Choice Innovation and Research (CEIR), but remains a non-voting member of the ERIC Board. That should raise eyebrows, as CEIR is as partisan as they come, receiving $70 million from Mark Zuckerberg in 2020 to promote mail-in ballots, unaccountable mailboxes, and “urgent voter education support” across the states. We traced CEIR funds to Maryland’s $2 million 2020 campaign to register and attract likely Democratic voters in Baltimore and the counties bordering Washington, DC.
Even more alarmingly, watchdog group Verity Vote has discovered that ERIC has a data-sharing agreement with CEIR, which CEIR allegedly uses to compile lists of eligible voters to target.
Public records from late December 2020 and early January 2021 obtained by centre-right regulator American Accountability Foundation (AAF) reveal that CEIR project manager Kyle Upchurch killed Pennsylvania Assistant Secretary of Elections Jonathan M. Marks in December 2020 asked for information on EBUs collected as part of the state’s membership of the ERIC.
Upchurch critically searched the Pennsylvania Voter File, the universe of all registered voters that contains sensitive information such as Pennsylvanians’ addresses and voting history.
CEIR also requested data on the EBUs’ demographics (e.g. date of birth, race, gender, party, language, address), registration date and source and voting history, as well as their “ERIC Notification ID”. The group wanted to know if Pennsylvania was tracking “undeliverable EBU mailers” and already registered voters, information that could be used to build a valuable voter universe for “get-out-the-vote” groups.
AAF’s records also shed light on the $13 million in “Zuck Bucks” CEIR granted to Pennsylvania in 2020, funds that originated from Mark Zuckerberg. A January 14, 2022 memorandum from Pennsylvania Acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman (D) to David Becker notes that the state spent $201,283 on a paid media campaign, complete with text messages and television, radio and social Media ads to advise voters by mail -on voting options and election day reminders.
A separate email chain shows that in November 2021, Becker and Matthew Masterson asked election officials to sign a letter of support for “the extremely competent and dedicated Election Commissioner, Meagan Wolfe,” a controversial member of the Wisconsin Election Commission (WEC) who was the last election oversaw. minute changes to state election laws ahead of the 2020 election. At least one Republican lawmaker has called for Wolfe to resign, accusing her of turning the WEC into a “rogue agency.”
CEIR Democracy Awards
Documents obtained by the conservative County Citizens Defending Freedom (CCDF-USA) at a public records request reveal more about CEIR’s interference in the country’s voting infrastructure. In July 2022, Becker invited at least a dozen Florida County election officials to attend CEIR’s Defender of Democracy Awards, which he describes as “a celebration of those who protect American democracy” by “opposing efforts to defend the Democratic… undermining the process”.
Panel speakers included Becker; controversial Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R-Georgia) and Jocelyn Benson (D-Michigan); Gabriel Sterling (R), Raffensperger’s chief operating officer and a known Trump critic; Republican Electoral Attorney Ben Ginsberg, co-chair of CEIR’s Election Official Legal Defense Network (EOLDN); retired Justice Thomas B. Griffith, a member of President Joe Biden’s Judiciary Commission; retired Judge J. Michael Luttig, another Trump opponent who serves on the advisory board of the anti-voter ID group Safeguarding Democracy Project; CBS News correspondent Major Garrett; CNN correspondent Kyung Lah; and ex-Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt (R), whose recent testimony in the Jan. 6 hearings denied the existence of voter fraud in Pennsylvania in 2020.
It is likely but unclear whether the panelists received the CEIR awards. we do From a separate email, we know that Orange County, Florida Election Commissioner Bill Cowles received a Defender of Democracy award. “It’s always good to see and hear your thoughts,” Cowles wrote to Becker on July 11. “Let us know if you speak in the Virgin Islands!!!”
In the next episode, CEIR called secret meetings with election officials.