TOPEKA — A controversial computer system designed to detect voter fraud is expected to again be operational in February following a security review tied to release of sensitive data, an official with the Kansas secretary of state's office said Monday.
The Interstate Crosscheck System touted by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach as a key to tracking down election cheaters is expected to pass a security examination by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in early February, said Bryan Caskey, director of elections in Kobach's office.
Caskey endured a combative hearing before the House Government, Security and Technology Committee that centered on the system for collecting voter registration records from around the country and comparing them to ferret out voters who may be gaming the system.
Legislators were interested in Crosscheck after data for nearly 1,000 Kansans was released by Florida officials in response to an open records request. The Florida Department of State dealt with the mistaken disclosures by offering one year of free fraud detection and protection services to individuals subject to the release.
Caskey said Kansas had assumed responsibility for data transfers involving Crosscheck's database, which includes about 100 million records from two dozen states. That decision was made after Arkansas officials encountered security problems hosting the system.
"We have never been breached — ever," said Caskey, who indicated Kansas was upgrading Crosscheck security. "All of this is taking place in-house."
Five years ago, an employee in the Kansas secretary of state's office sent Florida officials a list of 945 potential double registrants in those two states. The spreadsheet transferred by unsecured email and included the first and last name, date of birth and partial Social Security number for the Kansans.
Florida released that list in September to Anita Parsa, a Mission Hills resident interested in Kansas’ role leading Crosscheck.
Rep. Jason Probst, D-Hutchinson, and other legislators on the House committee returned again and again to disclosure of personal information and whether Kobach's campaign to identify fraud suspects warranted the investment in operational costs to the state or potential damages of additional improper exposure of private records.
"For this risk, what are we finding?" Probst said. "What's the payoff for the risk we're taking?"
Caskey said the system had detected thousands of duplicate voter registrations throughout the country, but action to clean up voter rolls was left to individual states. Fewer than 20 cases of duplicate voting have been found in Kansas, he said.
Rep. Greg Lewis, R-St. John, said there must be a cost to the state for Crosscheck because three or four secretary of state office staff work at least part of the year on the system.
In response, Caskey said Crosscheck didn't cost state taxpayers anything because the secretary of state's office was financed through user fees.
"I understand the point you're making. I'm not sure I agree with it," Caskey said.
Crosscheck was established in 2005 by then-Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh. It initially involved Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas, but has expanded under Kobach's leadership.