By Sherman Smith, The Topeka Capital-Journal
The American Civil Liberties Union in Kansas is renewing calls to accelerate the “long, agonizing death” of the Crosscheck voter registration system and put the program “out of its misery.”
Kansas for 14 years has operated the program, which compares voter registrations to eliminate potential duplicates.
Last year, the ACLU filed a class-action lawsuit against Kansas over the revelation that partial Social Security numbers for 945 voters were exposed by Florida officials through an open records request.
The ACLU said former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach weaponized the Crosscheck system in his quest to stamp out voter fraud, even though the program produced false positives 99 percent of the time and relied on the exchange of sensitive data through unsecured emails between election officials.
“Unless the goal is to continue denying Kansans their voting rights and leaving them vulnerable to identity fraud, why would we keep using this program?” said Lauren Bonds, interim executive director of ACLU Kansas.
ACLU was responding to the recent decision by Arizona to abandon Crosscheck, lowering the total number of states still participating to 23.
“I am not willing to take any chances with the security and accuracy of our voter registration list,” said Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs.
At its peak under Kobach, 29 states used Crosscheck to compare names and birth dates. Possible matches were then looked at more closely.
Under the direction of Scott Schwab, who replaced Kobach in January, the Secretary of State’s office is reviewing options that include upgrading or replacing Crosscheck.
The state’s elections director, Bryan Caskey, said no data has been uploaded to the program since 2017 because of security risks.
Last month, a federal court judge denied the state’s request to dismiss the ACLU’s class-action lawsuit, noting the ongoing existence of Crosscheck. The Kansas attorney general’s office argued that voting records aren’t protected by a right to privacy, but Judge Daniel Crabtree said the basic premise of the state’s argument was wrong.
Crosscheck was conceived as a way to find voters who moved between Kansas and neighboring states. Few people notify the election office to void their defunct registration after they move.
Davis Hammet, a voting rights activist, said states surrounding Kansas already have switched from Crosscheck to a system known as ERIC that was developed by data scientists. Entry into ERIC, which is viewed as safer and more reliable than Crosscheck, costs $25,000.
The irony, Hammet said, is Kansas is making voting rolls less accurate while partnering states wait for Schwab to make a decision. If Kansas were to abandon Crosscheck, “only a foolish state would take on the system and try to run it,” Hammet said.
Hammet said the entry fee is minimal compared to long-term savings, and he alluded to court sanctions that plagued Kobach’s administration.
Kobach used state funds to pay a $1,000 fine for misleading a federal court judge, as well as continuing education classes that were ordered for his actions in a trial last year. Additionally, a judge ordered the state to pay $26,000 in ACLU legal fees after Kobach was found in contempt of court.
The ERIC cost “is pennies on the dollar,” Hammet said, “and this is a secretary of state’s office that is notorious for costing the state thousands of dollars in legal fees.”