Applaud Senate’s Quick Action to Secure Voter Data
Attention is focused now on the Illinois House, after today’s Senate approval of a bill to protect Illinois voter data by pulling the state out of the national Crosscheck program. The final vote on SB2273, drafted with the help of Indivisible Chicago broke down along party lines 35-17 with 3 Republicans abstaining. The bill will now head to the House where Representative Ann Williams will be the chief sponsor.
“This is fantastic news. It’s heartening to see our legislators move so quickly to protect voters’ privacy,” bsaid Steve Held, one of the leaders of the Indivisible Chicago team fighting for data privacy protections and voter rights. “It’s unfortunate to see partisanship impact this vote at a time when the vulnerability of our voter data and concerns about identity theft have never been clearer; however, we’re hopeful that we’ll see more bipartisan support in the House.”
Indivisible Chicago thanks the initial bill sponsors, Senators Kwame Raoul and Bill Cunningham, as well as those who have joined as co-sponsors, for moving so quickly on this issue.
The Senate approval comes against a backdrop of other states quitting the Crosscheck program. They’re responding to increasing evidence that Crosscheck leaves voters vulnerable to identity theft through the insecure handling of sensitive data. In just this past month:
Both Massachusetts and Kentucky have recently announced that they are abandoning the Crosscheck program.
Missouri, one of the original founding states in Crosscheck, announced that they are joining the ERIC program to maintain voter roll.
Florida election officials acknowledged that the personal data for nearly 1,000 Kansans was compromised as a result of their participation in the Crosscheck program, prompting Florida to offer to pay for LifeLock protection to all impacted Kansans. This data had been shared with a Kansas-based Voters Against Crosscheck as a result of a public records request and subsequently shared with Indivisible Chicago.
After months of assurances from Kansas Secretary of State Kobach and Director of Elections Bryan Caskey that Kansas’ systems were secure, Netragard, a security research firm found that the Kansas government’s network was “significantly exposed”, posing a risk to all Kansas systems, including the Crosscheck database.
Gizmodo reported the careless exposure of the last four digits of social security numbers for thousands of Kansas state employees, including 90% of Kansas legislators and Secretary Kobach himself.
Kansas Director of Elections Bryan Caskey recently stated that Crosscheck would again be operational sometime in February but hasn’t provided any details about planned changes to the programs security.
Pulling out of Crosscheck doesn’t mean Illinois will be ill equipped to manage voter data, according to Held.
“Illinois is in the much more secure national ERIC program, along with 22 others,” he said. “We have the necessary tools to maintain our voter rolls. Proponents for Crosscheck are simply pursuing a highly partisan agenda to perpetuate debunked myths about voter fraud and to further an agenda of voter suppression. It’s time to end this charade and get on with the serious business of protecting the integrity of our electoral process.”
Efforts to persuade the Illinois State Board of Elections to voluntarily pull data from Crosscheck have been unsuccessful, with a vote earlier this month breaking out along party lines, and all Republican members voting “no”. In an email to Indivisible Chicago after that 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’s next monthly Board meeting is scheduled for February 21.
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 28 states that shared personal information such as date of birth and partial social security numbers directly with Crosscheck in 2017, 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. To learn more and to join this fight, visit https://endcrosscheck.com.