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Lawmakers: Could Kansas Be Liable If Voter Fraud Database Leaks?

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Kansas manages a voter database for several states, prompting some lawmakers to worry if the state would be liable if security broke down.

Some lawmakers said Monday that putting Kansas at the center of a database intended to root out voter fraud might eventually put it in the middle of a lawsuit if things go wrong.

More than two dozen states compare voter rolls using the Crosscheck database of some 90 million-plus records that Kansas hosts.

Secretary of State Kris Kobach has touted Crosscheck as a way to identify voters registered in more than one state and crackdown on double-voting. He’s secured nine convictions for that crime.

In a committee briefing on security matters Monday, Democratic Rep. Jeff Pittman raised concerns that Kansas could face lawsuits or have to pay for credit monitoring services if some of the records get hacked or improperly released.

Kansas currently makes the Crosscheck program free for any state that wants to participate. Pittman said Kansas should share the liability by charging states a small fee for every record they submit.

“It just makes sense,” Pittman said. “The more records a state puts in, the more at risk we are.”

The more records a state puts in, the more at risk we are.

In addition, the state should cut down on how many records are sent back and forth, he said.

Some critics of Crosscheck say it produces a high number of false positives -- different people who have the same names and even same dates of births.

Pittman said the secretary of state’s office should share only on the most likely matches to cut back on the number of documents transmitted and the chances of records being compromised during the process.

“Every point on the way there becomes a risk point, every point of transmission,” Pittman said.

Bryan Caskey, Kansas director of elections, said the program is working well as it is and the secretary of state’s office has no intention of charging other states.

He said they know Kobach’s high profile makes Kansas even more of a target for hackers than other states.

Caskey said the office has recently been working with federal officials to review the state’s voter database security.

“We are very cognizant of the threat that is posed to this state and to this information,” Caskey said. “It’s as secure as we can make it.”

Kansas delayed new data submissions to Crosscheck this year because of the security review.

Caskey wouldn’t reveal details of the state’s security measures, but he said one example is voting equipment is not connected to the internet.

Republican Rep. Keith Esau is one of the candidates running for secretary of state and he chairs the House Elections Committee. He said the concerns brought up in the committee were overblown.

“I don’t have any concerns about the security at the secretary of state’s office,” Esau said. “The risk is extremely low with our voter registration and Crosscheck system.”

The risk is extremely low with our voter registration and Crosscheck system.

Voter data for nearly 1,000 Kansas provided through Crosscheck, including partial social security numbers, was incorrectly released last year in Florida. Kobach’s office said releasing the information was a mistake by a Florida official.

Stephen Koranda is Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio, a partner in the Kansas News Service. Follow him on Twitter @kprkoranda. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post.

As the Kansas News Service managing editor, I help our statewide team of reporters find the important issues and breaking news that impact people statewide. We refine our daily stories to illustrate the issues and events that affect the health, well-being and economic stability of the people of Kansas. Email me at skoranda@kcur.org.
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