State Politics

Voter Crosscheck program under review after news of security holes, report says

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the vice chairman of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, attends the first meeting of the Commission at the White House on July 19.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the vice chairman of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, attends the first meeting of the Commission at the White House on July 19. CNP/Sipa USA/TNS

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office said Tuesday that the multistate voter registration database it manages is being reviewed for security concerns, the Lawrence Journal-World reports.

The review comes after ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative journalism organization, published a story in October highlighting several security concerns, including how easily the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program could be hacked.

Records provided to the Statesman as part of a subsequent request for Idaho documents on the program included the login credentials for the server the Crosscheck program uses in Arkansas — all in one email.

Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney told the Statesman he “wasn’t even aware of” security concerns and other issues surrounding the Crosscheck program until he read an Idaho Statesman article earlier this month.

“I thought the process was very secure. I had no idea maybe it wasn’t,” he told the Statesman. “I would just say that it appears it has been very sloppy.”

Crosscheck’s security review could be a factor in whether Idaho continues to participate in the program.

“(W)hether or not we continue down the path with Crosscheck in our toolbox will depend on our reviews of the security protocols of the Crosscheck program, and its ongoing potential benefit to Idaho,” Denney said in a written statement.

If Kansas determines the system needs upgrades, it is unknown if Kansas taxpayers will have to foot the bill.

“I legitimately do not know the answer to that yet,” Bryan Caskey, Kansas state election director, told the Lawrence Journal-World. “We’re still evaluating all options, and one of the options is cost.”

Tim Hurst, Denney’s chief deputy, said Wednesday he had heard Crosscheck was undergoing a security review but had no additional details.

Founded more than a decade ago, the Crosscheck program annually collects participating states’ voter registration data, including such personal data as birthdates and partial Social Security numbers. It then compares them in search of duplicate registrations and voter fraud.

States can join Crosscheck at no cost.

Idaho has provided Crosscheck its voter registration data every year since 2014, including dates of birth and partial Social Security numbers. In 2017, Crosscheck collected 98.5 million records from 28 states, including nearly 800,000 from Idaho.

Kobach, who has overseen Crosscheck since 2011, also is vice chairman of President Donald Trump’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. That has made for some unusual parallels.

In July, Kobach asked all 50 states to submit their voter rolls to Trump’s commission, including voters’ birth dates, Social Security numbers and other personal data — the same information Kobach already has been collecting from nearly 30 states for Crosscheck. Denney denied aspects of that request. He later said birthdates and partial Social Security numbers couldn’t be released through a public records request by the commission, but that he felt comfortable providing them to Crosscheck under the terms that govern the latter program.

Voter rights advocates are pressuring Illinois to drop out of Crosscheck, according to the Chicago Tribune. On Monday, the State Election Board decided to remain in the program in a 4-4 vote split along partisan lines.

And the Indianapolis Star reports several groups, including the Indiana NAACP, League of Women Voters and ACLU Indiana, have sued Secretary of State Connie Lawson, claiming that state’s participation in Crosscheck violates federal law and is discriminatory.

Cynthia Sewell: 208-377-6428, @CynthiaSewell

Related stories from Idaho Statesman