Trump expands Homeland Security reach after disbanding failed voter suppression commission
Leading voter rights activists at Indivisible Chicago are warning today of continued Trump administration voter suppression efforts. While President Trump yesterday disbanded his ill-conceived Presidential Advisory Commission on Voter Integrity (PACEI), he charged the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with reviewing the Commission’s findings and recommending next steps.
“This is a red flag for us,” said Steve Held, one of the leaders of the Indivisible Chicago team fighting voter suppression. “Under the jurisdiction of DHS, Trump can now shroud the whole voter suppression project in secrecy and take this investigation back into the dark.”
Media has widely reported that there is no credible evidence to backup claims of voter fraud in the 2016 Presidential election; instead, many suggest this investigation was started only because of Trump’s efforts to justify the fact that Democrat HIllary Clinton received a larger share of the popular vote, while Trump was elected on the basis of the Electoral College vote.
Indivisible Chicago and other community-based voter activists claim it has been clear from the beginning that PACEI was a sham, intended to perpetuate baseless claims and to provide cover for new laws that further restrict access to the polls. While we are pleased to see PACEI disbanded, there are still several reasons for serious concern:
- This morning President Trump’s tweets confirmed that from the beginning PACEI had a deeper objective to restrict voter access, as he immediately called for harsh new Voter ID laws while repeating false claims about the scale of voter fraud.
PACEI disbanded only after court rulings made it clear that they would not be allowed to operate in secret. The ruling does not apply to the Department of Homeland Security.
The affiliation with DHS indicates the potential for an outsized focus on identifying non-citizen voters, an issue frequently raised by the GOP, with few credible examples of this actually happening. So-called evidence presented by fringe right wing voter suppression groups like the Public Law Interest Foundation are found to be riddled with errors. Their work has led to voter disenfranchisement as U.S. citizens are incorrectly removed from voter rolls after their personal information was published online as a part of false accusations of illegal voting.
While the DHS has been charged with investigating the abundant evidence that Russians influenced our elections, the President continues to put no priority on understanding what happened in the 2016 election or taking serious steps to prevent such interference in 2018. Instead, he is potentially drawing resources from that effort by insisting DHS devote more government resources to chasing phantom voter fraud.
STATES WARNED ABOUT ADDITIONAL THREAT TO VOTER DATA
The most often cited “evidence” of voter fraud derives from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s Crosscheck Program. 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.
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.
While Trump disbanded PACEI because more than a dozen states have refused to turn over sensitive voter data, many are providing the same information to the insecure Crosscheck system. This, too, needs to be disbanded to further protect voter data.
Indivisible Chicago is leading the call for every state, including Illinois, to withdraw from Crosscheck both to protect sensitive data that can lead to voter 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.