Split Vote Keeps Illinois in Multistate Voter Crosscheck Program

Amid security and data management concerns, the State Board of Elections voted 4-4 on whether the state should remain a part of the voter vetting system.

by Rick Pearson, Chicago Tribune / November 21, 2017
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(TNS) –– The State Board of Elections on Monday rejected an effort to remove Illinois from the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, leaving the state in a controversial system aimed at flagging voters registered in multiple states.

The 4-4 split along partisan lines pitted election officials’ desires to have accurate voter rolls against concerns the system can be inaccurate and vulnerable to hackers looking for personal information — with a dash of political intrigue on the side. Republicans voted against leaving the system at Monday’s election board meeting, and Democrats were for it.

Illinois is among more than two dozen states participating in the program known as Crosscheck. But the program has drawn increasing criticism after other states have wiped out voter registrations based solely on its findings without following procedures spelled out in federal voting rights laws. Because Monday’s vote was tied, the state remains in the program.

Indivisible Chicago, a progressive group formed following President Donald Trump's election, has raised security concerns involving Illinois voters’ personal information, but there are also political considerations. The top election official in Crosscheck's home state, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, is the co-chair of a Trump-appointed panel on voter fraud that Democrats contend is aimed at trying to push voter suppression measures.

William McGuffage, a Democrat from Chicago who has served on the board for 18 years, called Crosscheck “suspect for a lot of reasons.” He contended there was a “symbiotic relationship” between Kobach’s role in Kansas overseeing the multistate database and his role on “what I called the bogus Trump commission.”

Republican Board Chairman William Cadigan of Winnetka called it “a shame that this whole issue of voting list maintenance has gotten entangled” with Washington politics. But he said Illinois is required by federal law to have accurate voter registration lists and noted the state has received notice expressing concerns from the U.S. Department of Justice that could lead to litigation.

Republican board member Ian Linnabary of Rockford told board members he had spoken with Kansas election officials and had “good news” that a meeting of all member Crosscheck states about security concerns would be held within the next two weeks.

While Linnabary said that no board members feel “voter fraud is rampant,” he urged the panel to “take a step back” and not withdraw from Crosscheck while efforts are made to secure the system.

“We know changes will be made to enhance security,” he said.

Illinois is one of 10 states that uses two voter-registration verification systems. It is among 20 states participating in a program acknowledged as more secure and accurate, the Electronic Registration Information Center, known as ERIC. But only one neighboring state, Wisconsin, is a member of that system.

Several county clerks who administer elections said Monday that they favor keeping Illinois in Crosscheck. Sangamon County Clerk Don Gray said his experience has been a “fruitful one” and called its use of the last four digits of Social Security numbers a “gold standard” for identification. The Social Security information in the system is also among the biggest privacy concerns of opponents.

Chicago Board of Elections Executive Director Lance Gough said the city has had problems with Crosscheck and “a lot of false positives” when searching for duplicate registrations. City elections officials called Crosscheck “an inferior process” and urged other states to join ERIC, which uses driver’s license data instead of Social Security numbers.

Last week, Democrats attending a legislative hearing dealing with Crosscheck said they would act to take the state out of the system if the state elections board didn’t. State Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, said opponents of the program would meet soon.

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