(TNS) — A federal judge on Friday blocked an Indiana voter registration law which would allow the state to immediately strike voters from the electoral rolls based on data from the controversial Interstate Crosscheck system, used by Michigan and dozens of other states.
The Interstate Crosscheck system is run by the Kansas Secretary of State. Other states send in their voter data and Kansas processes it, then notifies them if there are any possible matches. Matches can occur when people move to a new state and register to vote there without cancelling their previous registration. In 2017, 28 states participated and 7.2 million potential matches were identified.
However, the system is not perfect. In 2014, Idaho officials incorrectly purged more than 750 voters from the electoral rolls based on faulty Crosscheck data. A study conducted by the New Hampshire Secretary of State found that out of 94,610 potential matches identified by the system for the state, 94,468 were not of concern. The remaining 142 are under investigation.
Researchers from Stanford University concluded in a study that in Iowa, “one of Crosscheck’s proposed purging strategies would eliminate about 300 registrations used to cast a seemingly legitimate vote for every one registration used to cast a double vote.”
Michigan voters needn’t be worried, however. Instead of using the system as the basis for immediate cancellations of voter registrations, Michigan uses it to jumpstart investigations into double registrations.
In a public letter dated Sept. 22, Michigan Secretary of State Ruth A. Johnson said that “Michigan has also identified a number of voters who appear to have voted in two different states at the same federal election through its participation in the Interstate Crosscheck program.” While none of these instances resulted in criminal convictions, Johnson did not specify whether registrations were cancelled.
When asked about how it uses the system, the Michigan Department of State said that its approach was “consistent with federal law.”
Fred Woodhams, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office, said that Michigan uses the Crosscheck system to deal with “an unreasonable amount of dead wood on the voter rolls.” This “dead wood” exists because of the large population loss the state had experienced in recent decades.
When the Interstate Crosscheck system identifies a match, Michigan officials check to see where the person last voted. If they last voted in Michigan, no action is taken. If they last voted in another state, a notice is sent out asking if they want to be maintained as a voter in Michigan. If they indicate yes, their position on the roll is maintained.
If they indicate no, or don’t respond for two federal election cycles — around four years — then the record is purged. Woodhams said that no records had been purged before the 2016 elections due to the Interstate Crosscheck system because Michigan only joined in 2012. The state doesn’t keep records specifying whether cancelled registrations were identified through the Crosscheck system but Woodhams told the Free Press that since Jan. 1, 2011, the Secretary of State’s office has cancelled 134,000 registrations.
Because Michigan does not use the system in the same way as Indiana was planning to, it is unlikely that there is any legal basis for challenging the system here. The immediate cancellations of registrations permitted by the Indiana law would likely violate the National Voter Registration Act, which requires voter approval or no response from the voter for two federal election cycles before a cancellation is authorized.
In an unrelated case, the Supreme Court found on Monday that Ohio could legally cancel voter registrations after sending a notice and waiting two election cycles, even if there was no reason to suspect double registration.
©2018 the Detroit Free Press Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.