Come in and sit down at Anita Parsa’s kitchen table. Help yourself to the chocolate chip cookies and she’ll get you an iced tea. Might as well make yourself comfortable. Because for the next hour, she’s going to school you on a massive voter-tracking program run by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. “I like to figure out puzzles,” Parsa says. “I like to crack things, and that’s what this is all about.” This particular puzzle was Kobach’s Interstate Crosscheck system, which holds voter registration data for 25 states. A list of more than 85 million voters, it purports to catch election fraud by weeding out double voting. Crosscheck reportedly provided the numbers behind President Donald Trump’s baseless claim, after the 2016 election, that he would have won the popular vote “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally” – an assertion that Kobach had helped fuel. After his inauguration, when Trump appointed Kobach, with Vice President Mike Pence, to lead his now-defunct Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, Kobach attempted to take the Crosscheck model national. His idea was to get federal jury-service data to identify duplicate voter registrations, according to public documents.
Enter Parsa, a stay-at-home mom from Mission Hills, whose tenacious work and Twitter skills ultimately lead the Department of Homeland Security to investigate the cyber-security of Kobach’s favorite tool, and whose efforts have states thinking twice about participating in a system that has proven to be inaccurate and inefficient.
Her initial concern about questionable government spending priorities turned into an obsession as Parsa shared her own investigation of Crosscheck with, well, anyone who would listen.
“What we did was: ‘Let’s expose this so they fix it,’” she said, “and it bothers me that they aren’t honest about it.”