(TNS) — The American Civil Liberties Union is staking out a new battleground in a war of voter rights with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, filing a class action lawsuit Tuesday to challenge his use of a multistate data comparison program.
Kobach's maintenance of the Crosscheck system recklessly exposes private voter data, the ACLU argues, pointing to the 945 Kansans whose partial Social Security numbers were transferred in an unsecured email to Florida officials. The lawsuit asks for unspecified civil penalties, plus attorney fees and court costs.
"Kobach is so obsessed with ways to prop up his failed experiment in reducing citizen participation in elections that he's chosen not to follow the most basic procedures for protecting the privacy of Kansas citizens," said Micah Kubic, executive director for ACLU of Kansas. "So much of Kobach's agenda, from voting to immigration to education funding, is based on false narratives and threats that do not really exist. What does really exist is the horrifying invasion of privacy that Kobach has unnecessarily created."
The lawsuit follows Monday's ruling by a federal court judge in a fight between the ACLU and Kobach over the state's proof of citizenship requirements for voter registration. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson rejected Kobach's claims of widespread voter fraud, determining the testimony of his witnesses to be unreliable, flawed and invalid.
Although there are only 11 instances since 1999 of noncitizens voting in Kansas, Kobach appeals to constituents by championing his efforts to secure elections. He is seeking the Republican nomination in this year's race for governor, telling his base he knows he is doing the right thing if the ACLU is opposed.
"You have to be a U.S. citizen to vote, and you have to be who you say you are," Kobach said during a recent podcast with The Topeka Capital-Journal. "One way to put it concisely is in Kansas we've made it easy to vote but hard to cheat."
Kansas has used the Crosscheck system since 2005 to analyze the first name, surname and date of birth for voters in multiple states. Before Kobach took office in 2011, only Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska joined Kansas in using the program.
Kobach followed through on his pledge to expand Crosscheck, adding 26 states with 100 million voter records by 2016. However, eight states stopped using the program over concerns sensitive information could be exposed.
Additionally, researchers discovered the system produced false positives 99 percent of the time. The lead plaintiff in the ACLU lawsuit, Scott Moore, had the same name and age as a man in Naples, Fla.
"Simply being born on the wrong day could land you in Kobach's crosshairs," said Lauren Bonds, legal director for ACLU of Kansas. "Our plaintiffs shared a name and birth date with people in Florida, and that was enough for Kobach to place them on a list suspected double registrants."
Efforts to determine if people like the two Moores were really the same person led to the security breach of 945 Kansas voters. The state informed those affected by sending them a postcard and offering a year of service through an identity theft protection company.
©2018 The Topeka Capital-Journal, Kan., Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.