I know all about common names. I have heard all the jokes, as had my father, a unique and remarkable man named Bob Smith. Unfortunately, common names like ours are just one of many problems that will face Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in his new role as co-chair of President Trump’s Election Integrity Commission. Recall that in 2010, candidate Kobach publicly declared that he planned to remove Alfred K. Brewer from the Wichita voting rolls, because he had died. Brewer was surprised to hear this when journalists found him alive, raking leaves. The deceased was actually his father, Alfred K. Brewer Sr., who would have been 110 at the time. Screening lists for suffixes like “Junior,” “Senior” and “III” is not a foolproof procedure. For example, former President George W. Bush is not a “Junior” because he lacks one of his father’s two middle names. How about birthdays? A few years ago, two political scientists studied Georgia’s voter rolls, only to discover numerous instances of two different people (and in a few cases, more than two) with the same matching first, middle, and last names and birthdays — including the year. Seem unlikely? Georgia has nearly 5 million registered voters, so even a one-in-a-million chance means there will be a few such cases — and with common names, the chances of a name and birthday match are considerably higher.
If Kobach proceeds with his plans to amalgamate all states’ voting lists, it will add up to more than 150 million voters. A dataset this large will generate many duplicates, and many more near-duplicates, even with no fraud at all.
The commission’s project seems to be an extension of CrossCheck, a system Kobach developed in which several states compare election data to search for duplicates. Now he wants to take it national. Yet critics content that Kobach’s projects are really about voter caging, which refers to sending response-requested postcards to certain voters, then canceling registrations if they do not reply. For most people, these mailers are easily confused with junk mail and discarded, never delivered by the Post Office, or put at the bottom of the to-do pile.
Full Article: Michael A. Smith column, Aug. 6, 2017 | The Wichita Eagle.