As discussed in a previous blog post on voter purges, states maintain voter rolls by removing voters who have moved. Some states practice aggressive purges of the voter rolls based on voting history. Some of these states, led by Chris Kobach from Kansas, have started a program to purge voter rolls based on cross-state verification. This program is called Crosscheck.
What is Crosscheck?
Wikipedia describes Crosscheck, or more accurately, the “Interstate Crosscheck Program” as an initiative started by the office of the Kansas Secretary of State in 2005. The stated intention of the program is to create a database of registered voters to prevent double voting. By May 2016, the program had grown to 30 participating states. The program uses its shared database in an attempt to prevent any individual voter from registering to vote in more than one state.
Why is Crosscheck controversial?
By design, Crosscheck is supposed to verify identity using first name, family name and date of birth. That sounds pretty sensible. However, in a country of 139 million voters, tens of thousands of individuals share both names and birthdays – as summarized in this article by the Washington Post. Furthermore, major by data issues in the database increase the false duplicates. For instance, missing dates of birth in the state voter rolls are a frequent issue.
This allows advocates of Crosscheck to announce shockingly high numbers of alleged voters voting multiple times. As an example, in 2012 Republicans announced 35,750 duplicates in North Carolina. But upon close investigation only “eight cases of potential double voting were referred to prosecutors and two people were convicted“.
Even if it’s definitely worth finding ways to keep the voter rolls clean, 8 cases are far less impressive than 35,750. And the cure is worse than the disease! What is most damaging to democracy: 8 people voting twice, or 35,750 people being removed wrongly from voter rolls, leading to many more citizens not being allowed to vote?
Crosscheck singles out minorities
In 2017, Crosscheck resulted in a grand total of nine successful convictions, “mostly older Republican males,” based on the same analysis by the Washington Post. So, why are so many Republicans adamant that the system should be deployed nationwide? And why are so many organizations fighting for voting rights firmly opposed?
Although James, Michael and Robert Smith still lead the list of most common names in the US, Maria Garcia, Rodriguez and Hernandez are now in the top 10 too. Overall, census data shows that minorities are overrepresented in 85 of the 100 most common last names. Consequently, any voter roll purge based purely on similar name and surname will hit minority communities hardest. And it is no secret that these communities lean Democratic.
Too extreme for some Republicans
Fortunately, several republican states have refused to use crosscheck because of its inaccuracies. Florida joined and then left Crosscheck. Minnesota assessed the program and declined to join. These examples show the depth of concerns around the program.
There is a better Crosscheck: ERIC
Another program exists to help maintain voter rolls across states: ERIC, the Electronic Registration Information Center.
Through participation in ERIC, states can compare official data on eligible voters, such as voter and motor vehicle registrations, U.S. Postal Service addresses, and Social Security death records. The goal is to keep voter rolls more complete and up to date.
ERIC is owned, managed, and funded by participating states and was formed in 2012 with assistance from The Pew Charitable Trusts. 23 states have already joined ERIC, and the most recent one was Missouri. Encourage your representatives to join this quality program, and tell them to avoid Crosscheck.