EDITORIAL: Don’t let Illinois data be used for voter suppression
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When a database created to clear invalid names off voter rolls morphs into a tool of voter suppression, it’s time for Illinois to vote with its feet and get out.
The Interstate Voter Crosscheck System was created in 2005 to flag people registered in multiple states, which usually happens when people move and don’t notify the election jurisdiction they are leaving. Illinois has been a member state since 2010.
Crosscheck has always been riddled with errors, such as falsely identifying people with similar names as the same person. Officials in local jurisdictions could work with that, as long as they were careful to fully investigate everything before they tossed someone off the voter rolls.
But under the leadership of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who also is vice chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, Crosscheck has veered into a smokescreen for imposing voting restrictions. Kobach is making a name for himself on the national scene as someone willing to misrepresent any data if it helps to suppress the vote of someone who might vote for a Democrat.
Illinois has no reason to help Kobach further his schemes.
States that participate in Crosscheck upload their voter registration records to Kobach’s office in Kansas, which compares the records to those of other states to ferret duplicate registrations. If John Doe moved to Illinois, for example, and registered to vote without canceling his registration in his previous state, Crosscheck should be able to flag it. The state where he previously lived could then cancel the outdated registration.
Unfortunately, all that data gives Kobach fodder for outlandish claims of voter fraud. In New Hampshire, for example, he claimed thousands of out-of-state college students who voted in last year’s elections were engaging in fraud, even though they legally were entitled to vote. That’s Kobach’s method: mine the data and then point fingers, without any real evidence. The more he persuades people that voter fraud is rampant, the more willing they will be to accept voter suppression tactics, such as requiring photo IDs, as a response.
The longer Illinois remains in Crosscheck, the more data we will ship him to support his fraudulent campaign.
As state Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, told the Associated Press, “Crosscheck is being used as a political tool to help Republicans win elections. This has gone too far.”
Crosscheck has a record of being used to toss legitimate voters off the rolls. In 2014, 765 voters were improperly dumped from the rolls in Ada County, Idaho, because their data was similar to voters in other states. One voter, for example, had the same name and birthday as a voter in Arizona. Crosscheck didn’t take into account that the middle initials were different.
For voters tossed off the rolls, getting back on can be a time-consuming barrier to voting. As Cook County Clerk David Orr said, it can function like a poll tax to suppress the vote.
Illinois also is a member of an alternate system, the Electronic Registration Information Center, also known as ERIC, which is nonpartisan and widely considered to be significantly more accurate. The downside is that not as many states belong to it because it costs money, unlike Crosscheck, which is free. Crosscheck has 28 member states, though four have quit, citing unreliable data. ERIC has 20.
On top of the other problems, Indivisible Chicago reported Crosscheck administrators have been careless with voter information, emailing passwords and using unencrypted servers. That could expose voters’ names, addresses and, in some states, Social Security numbers to hackers.
Kobach, who is running for governor in Kansas, does not appear to be the kind of individual who should be entrusted with sway over voting. In June, a federal judge fined him $1,000 for “deceptive conduct” in misleading the court about documents he brought into a meeting with President Donald Trump.
No one wants cheating in elections. But that counts for the people who run the system as well as those at the polling place.
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