How Trump’s nationwide voter data request could lead to voter suppression

By Christopher Ingraham

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach talks in his Topeka, Kan., office on May 12, 2016. (Dave Kaup/Reuters)

President Trump’s Election Integrity Commission is asking all 50 states to turn over all publicly available voter registration data, including highly sensitive information about voters’ political affiliation, Social Security numbers, criminal history and military status.

Voting rights groups immediately pushed state governors to reject the request, saying it would put a massive trove of information in the hands of people who couldn’t be trusted with it. The request was initiated by commission co-chair Kris Kobach, the secretary of state in Kansas and a fervent believer that voter fraud is widespread despite decades of evidence to the contrary.

In Kansas, Kobach championed the use of Crosscheck, a multistate database of voter registration information that authorities use to check whether voters are registered in two states. The system works primarily by matching voters’ names and dates of birth — if the same name and date of birth show up for voters in two different states, the system flags them as possible double registrations.

Kobach has said he’s interested in using a similar process to compare state voter roll data to a federal database of legal immigrants, creating what Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, calls “Crosscheck on steroids.”

Researchers have found that Crosscheck’s matching algorithms are highly inaccurate. A recent working paper by researchers at Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard and Microsoft found that Crosscheck’s algorithm returns about 200 false positives for every one legitimate instance of double registration it finds.

“We’re concerned about unlawful voter purging, which has been something that Kris Kobach has been leading the charge,” said Vanita Gupta of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and former head of the Justice Department’s civil …read more