State Politics

Idaho should leave program that searches for signs of voter fraud, lawmaker says

House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, presents his bill requiring the state to exit the Interstate Crosscheck Voter Registration Program to the House State Affairs Committee on Friday, Feb. 9, 2018.
House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, presents his bill requiring the state to exit the Interstate Crosscheck Voter Registration Program to the House State Affairs Committee on Friday, Feb. 9, 2018.

A Democratic lawmaker says he has nothing against Idaho comparing its voter roll with others across the country to identify people who are registered in, and possibly voting in, multiple states.

What he does have a problem with is using an insecure computer system that could be hacked, and one that misidentifies duplicate voters, causing them to be erroneously kicked off the rolls.

House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, proposed legislation Friday to end Idaho’s participation in the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program run by the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office.

The Idaho Secretary of State’s Office joined the free Crosscheck program in 2014. At least once a year, the state uploads its database of about 800,000 registered voters, including voters’ personal information, to a server in Arkansas. The Kansas Secretary of State’s Office then compares states’ data and puts together a list of possible duplicates.

Recent national reports and an examination by the Statesman have identified several security and other flaws in the system. In addition, most of Idaho’s immediate neighbors don’t participate in the system, affecting its usefulness here.

The House State Affairs Committee postponed a vote on introducing the bill until Tuesday because some members were not familiar with the Crosscheck system. Members asked Erpelding to add a clear definition of the program to the legislation.

Erpelding told the committee that the bill “is specifically about ensuring the privacy and security of our citizens and protecting our right to vote.”

“The reason for that is not because of anything the (Idaho) secretary of state has or has not done,” Erpelding said, “but the fact that the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck system is an extremely insecure system that has resulted in more false identifications of double voter registrations than any true verifications.”

The evidence is really clear that the Interstate Voter Crosscheck system is a terrible system. It is flawed and it is exposed to cybersecurity threats on a very large level.

Rep. Mat Erpelding, D-Boise

Secretary of State Lawerence Denney told the Statesman in November that he “wasn’t even aware of” security concerns and other issues surrounding the Crosscheck program until he read an earlier Statesman article. He said at the time his office would review Crosscheck’s security protocols and then decide whether to continue participating.

As of Friday, his office said it still had not made a decision.

Rep. Paulette Jordan, D-Plummer – a State Affairs member and a candidate for governor – asked Erpelding for an example of when voters were tossed from the system inappropriately.

In 2014, in Ada County, Idaho, election officials admit that they wrongly purged over 750 voters because of the Crosscheck system, including radio personality Ken Bass, and (Betty Richardson) a former U.S. attorney,” Erpelding said.

Erpelding said Crosscheck “has never, ever identified any evidence of any type of voter fraud” in Idaho.

“Additionally, because of these cybersecurity issues, a bipartisan group of states have fled Crosscheck just in the last year alone, including Alaska, Florida, Washington, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon and Pennsylvania,” he said.

Erpelding said he does not want the state to completely disengage from programs examining states’ voter rolls. He recommended the state consider joining the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), which he says is “a fully secure system.”

Twenty-three states belong to ERIC, including Nevada, Utah, Oregon and Washington.

But that security comes at a price. While Crosscheck is free, ERIC has a $25,000 fee to join and an annual fee to cover operating costs.

Cynthia Sewell: 208-377-6428, @CynthiaSewell