State Politics

Lawmakers will discuss if Idaho should keep using criticized elections tool

House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding, R-Boise, speaks to the House State Affairs Committee Wednesday.
House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding, R-Boise, speaks to the House State Affairs Committee Wednesday.

Idaho lawmakers agreed Wednesday to explore whether Idaho should, or should not, continue to participate in a flawed program aimed at finding duplicate voter registrations and possible fraud.

The House State Affairs Committee voted to hold a hearing on legislation to end Idaho’s participation in the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, run by the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office. All committee members but Rep. Christy Zito, R-Hammett, supported introducing the bill sponsored by House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding, D-Boise.

Erpelding initially pitched his legislation on Feb. 9. But the committee asked him to add a clear definition of Crosscheck to his draft, and come back.

Erpelding’s bill specifically requires the state to withdraw from Crosscheck. It would not prevent the state from participating in any similar programs to compare voter rolls to identify people who are registered in, and possibly voting in, multiple states.

“The Voter Crosscheck system for years was promised to be a secure system,” Erpelding told the committee on Wednesday. “It turns out it is not a secure system.”

The problems with Crosscheck, Erpelding said, include that it uses an insecure computer system. The program’s results can also easily be misinterpreted, causing legitimate voters to be erroneously kicked off the rolls, he said.

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.

Idaho 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, then decide whether to continue participating.

On Feb. 9, Denney’s office told the Statesman it had not made a decision.

Zito, the lone vote against introducing the bill, asked Erpelding, “Has the Secretary of State’s Office done anything to remedy this?”

That, Erpelding said, is the reason to hold a full hearing on the bill: “to hear what the Secretary of State has done to ensure that, in addition to making sure our voter rolls are accurate, and we’re mitigating any potential for duplicate voter registration, what are they doing to protect the data of our private citizens? Because cybersecurity has and will continue to be an enormous issue for this country.”

Cynthia Sewell: 208-377-6428, @CynthiaSewell