Senate Dems push for N.H. withdrawal from voter database program

Monitor staff
Published: 1/16/2018 8:13:38 PM

Senate Democrats are taking aim at New Hampshire’s participation in the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, pressing for the state to pull out of a system they say is deeply flawed.

At a Senate election law committee hearing Tuesday on a withdrawal bill, Democrats and voting advocacy groups argued that the program – in which about 30 states share voter information to prevent double-voting across state lines – is inaccurate and insecure.

First initiated by the Kansas secretary of state in 2005, Crosscheck requires participating states to send voter registration data to the Kansas office, which then collates the names in a database. Any records sent to the office that match the first name, last name and birthday of a registered voter in another state are then sent back to both states, allowing them to examine the records and determine whether the voter is still a resident there.

The system is meant to prevent cases of individuals driving to vote in two different states on Election Day. But it’s come under heavy criticism from academics and voting rights advocates; statistical analyses have suggested the limited data inputs – name and birthday – are too broad and sweep up many people coincidentally born on the same day. A joint study by Stanford, Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania last year found that the program produces 200 false matches for every one accurate double-vote.

New Hampshire has participated in the program since early 2016. The bill, Senate Bill 439, would withdraw the state from the program and revoke the secretary of state’s authority to share voter information with other states. The move would follow Massachusetts, whose secretary of state reportedly withdrew from the program in March.

Advocates of withdrawal have recommended that the state instead join an alternative system, the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a 21-state system that collects more data points from states to compare voters, including addresses and the last four digits of the voter’s social security number. That system, they say, is more accurate and more secure.

“I am more than willing to work with this committee to have a participation, but in a program that is more reliable and that achieves the object that we want it to achieve,” said Sen. Bette Lasky, D-Nashua, prime sponsor of the bill.

The bill, sponsored by nine Senate Democrats, has no Republican sponsors. Some expressed skepticism Tuesday that ERIC has been adopted widely enough to be effective.

And the bill is opposed by Deputy Secretary of State Dave Scanlan, who said it would eliminate a valuable accountability tool that the state employs responsibly. The secretary of state’s office doesn’t take names provided by the Crosscheck system as definite double-voters, Scanlan argued; rather, the program provides a list of potential matches that the office can then eliminate through its own voter information.

New Hampshire could consider joining the ERIC system in addition to the Crosscheck, Scanlan added, but withdrawing from the latter would be detrimental, he maintained.

“Our experience so far with (Crosscheck) has been just fine,” he said.

(Ethan DeWitt can be reached at edewitt@cmonitor.com, or on Twitter at @edewittNH.)


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