At the inaugural meeting of President Trump’s election integrity commission on Wednesday, commission Vice-Chairman Kris Kobach of Kansas praised a data collection program run by his state as a model for a national effort to root out voter fraud. States participating in the program, known as the Interstate Crosscheck System, send their voter registration files to Kansas. Kansas election authorities compare these files to those from other states. Each participating state receives back a list of their voter registrations that match the first name, last name and date of birth of a voter in another state. States may act upon the findings as they wish, although Crosscheck provides some guidelines for purging voter registrations from the rolls. In theory, the program is supposed to detect possible cases of people voting in multiple locations. But academics and states that use the program have found that its results are overrun with false positives, creating a high risk of disenfranchising legal voters. A statistical analysis of the program published earlier this year by researchers at Stanford, Harvard, University of Pennsylvania and Microsoft, for instance, found that Crosscheck “would eliminate about 200 registrations used to cast legitimate votes for every one registration used to cast a double vote.” Kobach’s championing of Crosscheck is one reason many voting rights advocates are concerned that President Trump’s voter fraud commission may be a vehicle for recommending mass voter purges.
The program, known as the Interstate Crosscheck System, has been plagued by data quality issues. Three states have recently left it, citing accuracy issues.
But Kobach, who also serves as Kansas’s secretary of state and is running for governor in 2018, remains undeterred. In his opening remarks before the election commission he said the Crosscheck program “illustrates how a successful multistate effort can be in enhancing the integrity of our elections and in keeping our voter rolls accurate. I’m confident that this commission will be equally successful on the national level.”
How does a program that claims to be getting it right end up so often getting it wrong? Crosscheck bases its “matches” primarily on just two factors: people’s first and last names and their birth date. But in a country of 139 million voters, you’re guaranteed to have tens of thousands of individuals who share both names and birthdays.