Last week, Kansas Secretary of State and vice chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity Kris Kobach sent letters to all 50 Secretaries of State demanding massive amounts of voter data, vowing to make the lists available to the public.
The letter requested information beyond what is usually contained in voter registration records including social security numbers, birthdates, and military affiliation under the assertion that it would be used to improve the integrity and security of voting systems. Secretary of State Michele Reagan did the right thing for Arizona voters by denying the request.
Kobach’s goal in requesting the voter rolls, although unstated, is presumably to create a nationwide voter database modeled after the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program. Crosscheck, a project of Kobach’s that compares voter registration lists across state lines to search for individuals that have voted multiple times in the same election, has 32 states participating- Arizona included. Crosscheck’s underdeveloped method of identifying double votes only uses voter’s first names, last names, and dates of birth and has resulted in thousands of false accusations of duplicate voting and the subsequent removal of legitimate voters from the rolls. A study from January of this year found that Interstate Crosscheck could lead to the removal of 200 legitimate voters for every one double vote found. Also concerning is that Kobach likely already has access to Arizonans’ voter registration information through participation in Crosscheck.
The vast majority of state election officials around the country have signaled that they intend to deny Kobach’s request. If Kobach is able to get access to voter registration data from all 50 states, we expect him to create a nationwide version of Crosscheck. Thousands of false cases of duplicate voting would be reported, leading to widespread wrongful purging of voters from the rolls. Millions of voters with the same first name, last name, and date of birth will be at risk for wrongful accusation of double voting.
The security risks contained in this request are also quite startling. The letter sent to the Secretaries of States offered two options to transmit the data: via email to a White House address or file hosting services run through the Pentagon that is not currently equipped to appropriately handle encrypted web traffic. In a time where fears of election tampering and the hacking of voter rolls have become reality, the lack of concern for data security contained in this request is troubling. While there are ways to securely aggregate voter registration data such as those used by the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a publicly run non-profit that utilizes advanced encryption algorithms to protect its data, the Commission has given no indication it has plans to secure the data.
The establishment of a nationwide database containing voters’ most personal information is hardly the route we should be taking to improve the integrity and security of our elections. We need funding to repair broken voting machines that cause confusion and long lines at the polls. We need to pass automatic voter registration, which will securely add millions of voters to the rolls, save money, and mitigate the already rare occurrences of voter fraud. States should be joining ERIC to both clean up and grow their voter lists. We need to consider pulling out of Crosscheck and joining ERIC to ensure that our data is secure. Allowing Kris Kobach, a man with a track record of voter suppression, free reign over our voter rolls is dangerous to the future of our democracy.