New Direction: With New SoS, Kansas Considers Changes to Crosscheck, Enforcement

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Kansas is considering two big changes following the election of a new Secretary of State last fall: eliminating the Crosscheck program and removing the office’s election prosecution powers. The Journal Times has the Crosscheck story:

The future of a much-criticized database that checks if voters are illegally registered in multiple states is up in the air after its patron, Kris Kobach, lost the Kansas race for governor and is out of elected office.

A spokeswoman for Kobach’s successor as Kansas secretary of state said Friday the office is reviewing the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program and consulting with other member states about it. “No formal decision has been made either way” about whether to end the program, said Katie Koupal, the spokeswoman for Secretary of State Scott Schwab.

Crosscheck, which had been administered by Kobach’s office, compares voter registration lists among participating states to look for duplicates. The program is aimed at cleaning voter records and preventing voter fraud, but has drawn criticism for its high error rate and lax security.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas alleged in a lawsuit filed last year that “reckless maintenance” of the program has exposed sensitive voter information. Kobach has called that lawsuit “baseless,” citing the U.S. Supreme Court last year in an Ohio case dealing with maintenance of voter rolls.

On Friday, Kobach noted Crosscheck has grown from four states at its start in 2005 to 30 states…

Crosscheck was started in 2005 and had only four participants when Kobach took office in 2011. By 2017, 30 states were participating in Crosscheck and more than 100 million voter records were added to the database, according to the ACLU lawsuit. Eight states — Florida, Alaska, Kentucky, Washington, Oregon, New York, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts — have left the program due to security risks and data reliability concerns since Kobach began managing it.

In New Hampshire, lawmakers are now considering a bill to end the state’s participation in Crosscheck and instead join ERIC.

In addition, the state’s Attorney General is asking the Legislature to remove election prosecutorial powers from the SoS, according to the Journal World:

Committees in the Kansas House are considering two bills that would repeal the secretary of state’s authority to prosecute election crimes, which was established after a long political fight by former Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

Kobach had argued that his office should be able to prosecute election crimes to stop what he contended was widespread fraudulent voting by immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. He was given authority over election fraud in 2015 .

In 3½ years, Kobach prosecuted 10 to 15 cases of voter fraud. None of the defendants were immigrants living in the U.S. illegally, said Katie Koupal, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state’s office. Two were immigrants who had legal permission to live in the U.S. but who were not eligible to vote. The others were U.S. citizens who voted in two states, usually because they had land in several states…

Attorney General Derek Schmidt says Scott Schwab, who replaced Kobach as secretary of state, wants to return to the office’s traditional responsibilities of registering businesses and administering elections, which would return prosecution of voting crimes to state and county prosecutors, The Wichita Eagle reported.

“The current secretary has told me he doesn’t want that authority, doesn’t have criminal prosecutors on his staff, and (since 2015) we’ve created our fraud/abuse litigation division at the AG’s office,” Schmidt said.

The House Judiciary Committee is considering a bill introduced by Rep. John Carmichael, D-Wichita, and the House Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice is considering a slightly different version requested by Schmidt last week.

Carmichael said the secretary of state office should not prosecute voter fraud because it creates a conflict of interest.

“The secretary of state and his office are oftentimes the witnesses needed to prove the case,” Carmichael said. “You can’t prosecute the case and use your own employees as the witnesses, so it needs to be put back in the hands of professional prosecutors.”

This is a time of year that we often see proposed election changes in many states – especially those that have had a change in partisan control. But Kansas is proof that changes can happen anywhere if a state decides it’s time either to try a new direction – or just abandon the old one. Stay tuned …

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