Local Government and Elections Breaux OpEd: Voter information sharing didn’t start with federal commission, but with...

Breaux OpEd: Voter information sharing didn’t start with federal commission, but with Indiana state law

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The Presidential Advisory Commission on Voter Integrity is the latest federal overreach that puts Hoosiers’ private information at risk. In reality, President Trump, Vice President Pence and their administration are using this commission to justify the president’s claims of a “rigged election” and his absurd accusation that three to five million people voted illegally in the 2016 election.

Under the direction of the commission’s vice chair – and current Kansas Secretary of State – Kris Kobach, the commission has requested that all 50 states submit personal information of voters to ensure voter integrity. The requested information includes birth dates, party affiliations, Social Security numbers and voting histories. I am encouraged by Secretary of State Connie Lawson’s willingness to follow current Indiana law and withhold this information requested by the commission. However, much of this information is already accessible to Secretary Kobach through a law passed by the Indiana General Assembly in 2013.

Indiana passed Senate Enrolled Act 519 requiring Indiana to share personal voter information with other states through the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program. The legislation specifically requires our Secretary of State to share this information with the Kansas Secretary of State. I, along with my Democratic colleagues, voted against the legislation, in part because we recognized the potential flaws and dangers with such a program.

I am troubled that the Crosscheck program and the federal commission are both led by Secretary Kobach, who has been rebuked by both the United States Court of Appeals and the Kansas Supreme Court for his voter suppression tactics in Kansas. Already, the federal commission has mishandled private voter information, and I fear Hoosier voter information is at risk if we continue to participate in the Crosscheck program. 

The Interstate Crosscheck program is an ill-conceived attempt to reduce voter fraud by identifying duplicate voter registrations. However, the methodology of the program is flawed, resulting in numerous false positives and the potential for eligible voters to be wrongly removed from the voter rolls. This burden falls more heavily on minority communities who are more likely to share the same last names, and thus be wrongly identified as duplicate voters. These problems have led Florida, Washington, and Oregon to drop out of the Crosscheck program.

Because of my concerns for the privacy of Hoosiers and the potential for voter disenfranchisement, I will author legislation in 2018 for Indiana to withdraw from mandatory participation in the Interstate Crosscheck Program. Indiana should be increasing voter participation by making it easier for Hoosiers to select their representatives. Through automatic voter registration, same day voter registration and satellite voting, Indiana could become a leader that believes in the integrity of its citizens and the expansion of the democratic process.