My Turn: Senate must remove New Hampshire from the damaging Crosscheck program

For the Monitor
Wednesday, February 14, 2018

When it comes to claims to fame, New Hampshire has plenty. From our jaw-dropping mountains to our maple syrup, Americans nationwide know that our small state has much to offer. Arguably one of the most important of these claims, however, is our status as the host of the “First in the Nation” presidential primary election every four years.

Given this responsibility, Granite Staters take pride in our strong tradition of clean and fair elections, which are the bedrock of our democracy and must be protected at all costs. That is why I am deeply concerned about New Hampshire’s continued participation in the Interstate Crosscheck Program (“Crosscheck”) – a system that we know to put voters’ information at risk while unjustly disqualifying eligible voters.

New Hampshire joined Crosscheck in 2016 with the laudable goal of ensuring the integrity of our state’s elections. The program works by comparing data across states to identify and eliminate duplicate voter registrations. But since its inception, Crosscheck has dismally failed to accomplish its worthy goal. Instead it has been proven to be severely inaccurate, and also a major threat to the security of Granite Staters’ personal information, which Granite Staters hold dear.

The program’s data is hosted on what ProPublica, a non-profit newsroom, referred to as an unencrypted and insecure server with overly-simplified and infrequently changed passwords that were often shared over email. Security experts have said the program could be breached by a “novice hacker.” In fact, just two weeks ago, private information contained within Crosscheck was made publicly available in Illinois.

New Hampshire voters were rightfully concerned when President Trump’s now-disbanded voting commission, which was led by Kansas Secretary of State and key Crosscheck proponent Kris Kobach, requested our voter file. This sensitive information must always be kept as secure as possible. And continuing to participate in Crosscheck will only expose that information to significant security threats and betray the trust of New Hampshire’s voters.

In addition to the security threats it presents, Crosscheck fails to keep voter rolls accurate. Other states have picked up on what a sheer disaster Crosscheck is and have taken action to protect voter information. Kentucky just a few weeks ago became the eighth state to leave the program, citing security concerns and “unreliable” results.

As an elected official and New Hampshire citizen, I share these concerns and have long been dedicated to the goal of ensuring accurate voter rolls and absolute integrity elections in our state. Remaining in the Crosscheck program, however, is not the way to achieve this.

These goals become increasingly important every day as we approach yet another election. State lawmakers must act now to do all we can to protect sensitive voter data and make sure all eligible citizens are able to vote. However, unfortunately the Senate Election Law Committee took a step backwards by voting along party lines against SB 439, legislation that would protect Granite State voters by removing New Hampshire from the Crosscheck program.

To achieve the broadly shared goal of ensuring the security and fairness of elections in New Hampshire, the full Senate should turn down that recommendation and must pass SB 439. The legislation would transition the state out of Crosscheck and into a more reliable program, such as the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) that will better assure voters that our elections are fair and secure.

ERIC is a non-profit organization that works to improve the accuracy of America’s voter rolls as well as ensure that all eligible Americans have access to voter registration. ERIC is managed by states who self-select to participate in the program and was established in conjunction with The Pew Charitable Trusts in 2012. Over time, ERIC has proven itself to be a much more reliable alternative to Crosscheck. A 2014 Washington state audit of the ERIC system found no cases in which people who were legally registered were falsely flagged as ineligible. ERIC identified more legitimately ineligible voters.

I am honored and proud to be a citizen and public servant in our country’s “First in the Nation” state. As lawmakers, we have an even greater obligation to do all we can to ensure that Granite Staters are able to freely and fairly execute their fundamental civil right to vote. In the state Senate, that means moving SB 439 forward. To achieve that and restore even greater faith in our election process the state Senate should vote to move SB 439 forward.

To protect our sacred right to vote, it’s the right thing to do.

(Bette Laske is the State Senator from District 13, representing the Nashua area.)