In about 30 days, pitchers and catchers will report for baseball spring training. In Kansas government, one program already has three strikes against it and should be called “out” for good. Here’s the back story.
For the better part of eight years, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has administered a multi-state system that claims to secure voting integrity. The program goes by the name of Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck and involves 26 other states and a database of an estimated 100 million people. Unfortunately, this program has swung and missed three times.
Strike one for Crosscheck is security. People in Kansas have already had their personal data compromised by this program. The names, addresses, dates of birth and last four digits of the Social Security numbers of 1,400 Kansas voters were obtained by a liberal activist group in Chicago through a simple Freedom of Information Act request. In addition, several independent companies with expertise in data security have looked at the network and concluded it lacks basic safeguards, noting that even amateur hackers could get in with little trouble.
With a system this unsafe, our secretary of state’s office is no better than compromised credit bureau Equifax. It promises information on potential voter fraud, but in the process exposes Kansans and others to potential financial fraud, including identity theft.
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Strike two for Crosscheck is that the system is neither accurate nor effective. Because it only uses three pieces of data to identify matches, its hits are full of false positives, not double voting. In fact, the program’s own participation guide says just that. States, including Kansas, have to spend taxpayer money to investigate dual registrations, or they will be wrongly removing names from the voter rolls.
Crosscheck’s data is also misleading. In 2012 and 2014, Crosscheck sent Iowa officials information on about 240,000 voter registrations that shared a name and a date of birth with a voter in another state. But under detailed investigation, researchers from four universities found only six names where it appeared the same person was registered and voted in two different states — just six matches out of 240,000 cases.
Given this ridiculously high error rate, it is no wonder that Florida, Washington and Oregon no longer use the program. Other states are now actively questioning the system’s value.
The third strike for Crosscheck is its cost. Maintaining and updating a database of an estimated 100 million names takes time and money. Yet we have little or no information on the overall cost of the Crosscheck program, and why Kansas taxpayers are paying for a service that 26 other states get to use for free.
The Crosscheck database may be located physically in Arkansas, but the program is administered and supervised by the Kansas secretary of state’s office. Who is responsible for administration of this database in the secretary of state’s office? Where is the cost information for this activity listed in state budget documents?
Legally, this potentially puts taxpayers at risk, exposing them to liability if state government discloses information improperly.
This is the kind of basic cost and personnel information Kansans should have access to, but don’t as of now. Kansas taxpayers should not be funding or participating in a program that is the source of this kind of false and misleading data, especially when better and more cost-effective alternatives exist.
Just last week President Donald Trump shut down his Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity and sent it back to the dugout.
Kansas should follow Trump’s lead. If Kobach won’t end his essentially hitless Crosscheck program, then our state legislators should.
Three strikes is an out in baseball. It should be the same in state government.
Jim Barnett, a Republican, is a candidate for Kansas governor. He and his wife Rosie live in Topeka, where he is a practicing physician.