[Image courtesy of chicagotribshops]
A few weeks ago, I wrote about a controversy in North Carolina related to potential double voters that was uncovered during an interstate crosscheck of voting records. As I noted, these stories are getting more and more frequent – thanks in part to the growing popularity of a Kansas program designed to carry out these crosschecks. Yesterday’s Lawrence Journal-World took a closer look:
A little-known program run by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach goes through more than 100 million voter records from states across the nation.
Called Interstate Crosscheck, or “The Kansas Project,” the program compares voter registration records from one state with 27 other participating states to check for duplicate voter registrations and possible double voting. The goal of the program is to clear up registration rolls, Kobach said.
Nearly all double registrations are unintentional, resulting from a person moving from one state to another and re-registering to vote, Kobach says.
But the computer program drills down further to try to find voters who may have voted in two separate states, he said. It’s a program that Kobach’s office provides for free.
“It’s a state-run program that Kansas has developed and it’s a service for the whole country,” Kobach said.
The program was born out of an agreement between Kansas and three other Midwestern states seven years ago, but Kansas’ current secretary has made it a priority to expand its reach:
The “Kansas Project” was started in 2007 by former Kansas Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh and also involved the states of Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska.
Kobach said that when he took office in 2011 and learned about the program he thought it was great and should be applied nationally.
“I have taken it under my wing and want to build it as one of my personal missions,” he said.
The program has received positive reviews, including a mention in the final report of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration:
Participating states exchange and compare voting data after a federal election to ascertain whether voters in different states, sharing the same name, birthdate and other information, voted in the same election. Matched records are then forwarded to the participating states that can then cull them to see if any such matches represent attempts at double voting that should be forwarded to law enforcement. (p. 28)
Some states have resisted or dropped out, however. The Journal-World again:
While Kobach has increased the number of states in the program, in recent years at least two have dropped out: Florida and Oregon.
Florida officials say they would work on their own with other states to update registrations, and Oregon joined the Electronic Registration Information Center, a project started by the Pew Charitable Trusts that includes nine states.
Despite the partisan furor that often erupts when crosscheck data is released publicly, Kobach observes that the program does have a bipartisan flavor:
Kobach insists there is nothing partisan about this effort.
While most of the participating states are solid Republican or lean Republican, there are nine that are solid Democratic or lean Democratic.
“You hear Republican secretaries of state talking about the security of voter rolls probably more than Democrat secretaries of state, but they (Democratic secretaries of state) care about it just as much,” he said.
Indeed, Kobach himself notes that many of the controversies that result from cross-checks are due to premature release of initial results:
Earlier this month, Republican officials in North Carolina, a key battleground state, said the Interstate Crosscheck uncovered proof of widespread voter fraud. But after those initial reports, officials have walked back those assertions and were focusing on investigating a much smaller number of potential cases.
“They chose to make public the number of potential double voters,” Kobach said of North Carolina officials.
Kobach said the number of potential double voters — those whose names and dates of birth match up in two states — is always much larger than “likely double voters,” whose first and last names, dates of birth and last four digits of their Social Security numbers matched with a voter registered in another state.
This last point is the most important; while interstate information sharing is a good thing, the results must be carefully reviewed before – not after – allegations of widespread fraud. As more states take part in this program (affecting more voters), it’s vital that everyone remember that even crosschecks need crosschecks.