Illinois dumps system blamed for voter suppression

State Board of Elections votes unanimously to drop out of Crosscheck, Kansas voter database protected by Rauner veto



By Ted Cox

Illinois has dropped out of a controversial voter-registration database previously protected by Gov. Rauner’s veto.

The state Board of Elections voted unanimously Tuesday 8-0 to withdraw Illinois from the Crosscheck program, a database originally administered by conservative Kansas politician Kris Kobach and charged with enabling voter suppression.

The General Assembly passed a bill last year calling for Illinois to withdraw from the program, but then-Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed it.

Crosscheck suspended operations last year after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security found it vulnerable to security breaches. The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the program over the distribution of private information on 1,000 Kansas voters.

The ACLU of Illinois has been calling on the state to withdraw from Crosscheck since 2017, charging that it’s “prone to false matches and illegal voter-roll purges,” especially among targeted demographics.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker cheered the move Wednesday, stating in a tweet that “protecting voter data and maintaining the integrity of our elections is foundational to our democracy.”

The state election board explained in a statement posted on its Facebook page that the move was necessary to enable Illinois to check voter data with Indiana. Indiana law prevented it from sharing information as long as Illinois was in the Crosscheck program. According to the board: “In our initial talks with Indiana election officials this month, they indicated it would be easier (from a legal/technical standpoint) to craft an agreement if Illinois was officially not a member of Crosscheck.”

The bill passed by the General Assembly last year called on Illinois to work with Indiana on double-checking voter registration, but again that was part of the bill vetoed by Rauner.

ACLU of Illinois joined in cheering the move. “We applaud the state Board of Elections for withdrawing Illinois from the discredited system of Crosscheck,” said staff attorney Rebecca Glenberg in a statement. “Illinois — which prides itself on efforts to expand access to the vote — should never have participated in this system designed as a tool for voter disenfranchisement.”

The state maintains membership in the Electronic Registration Information Center, comprising voter data from 26 states, including neighboring Iowa, Missouri, and Wisconsin. According to the board, Michigan recently joined that organization, and Kentucky is considering it.

“We’re not sure how long it will take to get a data-sharing system with Indiana in place,” the board stated Tuesday, “but we’re already in contact.”

But the ACLU also warned of entanglements with Indiana. “Indiana is well-known for its voter-suppression efforts, including a law that allows local registrars to cancel a person’s registration based solely on a match in the discredited Crosscheck program,” Glenberg added. “Last fall, a federal court found that this law likely violated federal law and ordered the state not to implement it ahead of the November 2018 elections.

“Illinois should not provide voter data to Indiana if it is to be used in such a manner. Moreover, voters must have a meaningful opportunity to comment on the proposed deal before Illinois begins sending their data to another state.”

Ted Cox