TOPEKA, KANSAS - A much-criticized national database that checks if voters are registered in multiple states wasn't used last year in Kansas, the state that administers it, the official overseeing the state's elections told lawmakers.
Kansas Elections Director Bryan Caskey said his office under former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach also chose not to make $20,000 in security upgrades to the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program. It didn't use the program during last year's election cycle and likely won't again this year after a Homeland Security audit discovered vulnerabilities.
Twenty-eight states exchanged 98 million registration records when Crosscheck was last used in 2017.
Kobach, a longtime champion of strict voter registration laws, was vice chairman of President Donald Trump's now-disbanded commission on election fraud. Kansas voters elected Scott Schwab, also a Republican, to replace him after Kobach ran for governor and lost to Democrat Laura Kelly.
Caskey told the House Elections Committee that Schwab has ordered a review of Crosscheck to determine whether to entirely abandon the program, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported.
Crosscheck compares voter registration lists among participating states to look for duplicates. The program is aimed at cleaning voter records and preventing voter fraud, but it has drawn criticism for a high error rate and lax security.
Crosscheck compares registration lists and analyzes voters' first and last names and date of birth to determine whether a person is registered in multiple states, but critics say most of the hits are false matches.
The program identified 141,250 possible duplicate voter registrations in Kansas in 2017, but it is unclear how many were purged because the system doesn't track that data, Caskey said.
"I acknowledge that, yes, there are some false positives," he said.
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.
A federal judge earlier this month rejected the state's argument that the lawsuit should be dismissed because voters have no right to privacy for the information in their registration record.
U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree ruled he was rejecting that argument "because its basic premise is wrong."
Caskey told lawmakers that Kansas could use $2 million in federal funds untouched by Kobach to instead access the Electronic Registration Information Center, or ERIC as it is better known. It uses encrypted voter information along with Social Security Administration death records, driver license information and U.S. Postal Service change-of-address data.
Twenty-six states now use the ERIC system, according to its website. ERIC, based in Washington, D.C., is a nonprofit corporation governed by a board of directors made up of member states.
Voting rights activist Davis Hammet said it should be a no-brainer to switch from Crosscheck to ERIC, which was developed by the Pew Charitable Trust with data scientists.
"If we are going to try to do this to clean our rolls, everyone seems to be in agreement that this is the way to do it," Hammet said.