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Illinois Legislators Urged to Act Quickly to Secure Voter Files

National Crosscheck database struggles with data security, misses self-imposed deadline

Warning that vulnerabilities in the Interstate “Crosscheck” program are more extensive than election officials have admitted, voter rights activists at Indivisible Chicago are praising the Illinois State Board of Elections (SBE) for confirming that no voter data will be sent to the “Crosscheck” program in January as originally planned. The voter rights activists are urging the SBE to hold firm as the Kansas officials in charge of securing the national Crosscheck voter database continue to struggle with security fixes that will protect 100 million voters’ personal data.

In December, Kansas officials assured participating states that they would have the opportunity to review details about proposed security fixes by the end of the year, with a plan to discuss on January 4th. “As of this date, we have received no description of security enhancements from Crosscheck”, said Steve Sandvoss, the SBE’s Executive Director in a January 10 letter to State legislators. “We plan to review and discuss those proposed enhancements upon receipt and we will transmit no data to Crosscheck until security issues are addressed to our satisfaction.”

In an email to Indivisible Chicago after yesterday’s SBE Board meeting, SBE Public Information Officer Matt Dietrich confirmed no voter data would be sent until any security changes are assessed and discussed in a public SBE Board meeting. The SBE Board meets monthly.

“Our research exposes the risks to Illinois voters if their personal data is sent to Crosscheck before serious security breaches are repaired,” said Steve Held, one of the leaders of the Indivisible Chicago team fighting voter suppression. “This delay indicates administrators are incapable of fixing this flawed system. That’s why we’re calling on Illinois legislators to take advantage of this time to remove Illinois from the Crosscheck voter suppression system.”

A bill to do just that has been introduced by Senators Kwame Raoul and Bill Cunningham. Indivisible Chicago is urging more legislators to sign on to SB 2273 to expedite its passage.

Crosscheck is a program created and operated by Kansas election officials. It collects voter registration information from participating states and “crosschecks” the data to find duplicate registrations. This program is the primary source for Kobach and Trump when citing “millions of illegal voters”. Yet, the program’s algorithm to identify illegal voters has been widely discredited and Kansas authorities who oversee the program have refused to take basic steps to improve the accuracy of the results. Therefore, Crosscheck generates intentionally-inflated statistics that exaggerate the instances of actual voter fraud by a factor of over 1,000.

Recent research by Indivisible Chicago has exposed numerous security flaws and raised questions about how the data is used. This includes:

  • Usernames and passwords to critical systems and encrypted files emailed in plain text;
  • A lack of encryption protocols for the server used to transmit and store 100 million voter records; and,

  • A misconfigured firewall protecting this voter data is misconfigured.

Illinois is among 27 states that share personal information such as date of birth and partial social security numbers directly with Crosscheck, which puts voters at risk of identity theft. While the SBE has the authority to leave the Crosscheck program, a December vote on the question was defeated when all four Republican SBE Board Members voted to remain in the program. That’s when Indivisible Chicago intensified grassroots efforts to pass a state law to protect voter data from insecure, centralized databases such as Crosscheck.

Crosscheck is known to be misused by some participating states. Indiana currently faces multiple lawsuits alleging violations of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) based on their over reliance on Crosscheck, because the system is widely known to be highly inaccurate. Indiana purges voters from the rolls without sending proper cancellation notifications based solely on Crosscheck matches. Indiana purged over one million voters from the rolls between 2014 and 2016 and has purged over 500,000 voters since the 2016 election.

Indivisible Chicago is leading the call for every state, including Illinois, to withdraw from Crosscheck both to protect sensitive data that can lead to identity theft and as a moral stand against voter suppression efforts.

Indivisible Chicago is working with activists across the nation to urge states to leave Crosscheck. To learn more and to join this fight, visit https://endcrosscheck.com.