Here’s a story you might have missed with all the hubbub around impeachment, Silent Sham, and redistricting.
Some of you might recall Interstate Crosscheck, the program touted by then-Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to ferret out so-called voter fraud. The basic idea was that Kobach convinced several states to send him voter data, which his crack Kansas team would comb through for duplicates, showing people voting more than once in different states.
In 2014, then Speaker of the NC House Thom Tillis raised all kinds of alarms about voter fraud and pushed the state to send it’s voter data to Kansas for Kobach’s effort.
Turns out Interstate Crosscheck has been shut down, settling a lawsuit by the ACLU of Kansas. Besides using completely inept and bogus methodology, the voter data was stored on insecure servers and had other security vulnerabilities.
Back in 2014, we figured out quickly that it was all a sham. The much-touted charges of voter fraud turned out to be matches based on people with similar names or birthdates, with several matches coming from default birth dates used in state voter information where fields were missing.
At the time, I raised several concerns about the security of this data and how it could be misused. Now, five years later, my concerns about how this information was handled by Kobach and his team were confirmed by the ACLU settlement.
Reporting and the ACLU lawsuit revealed that the data was stored on insecure servers, administrators regularly exchanged passwords via open Internet email, and they even released partial social security numbers for at least thousands of voters, opening the voters to identity theft and other scams. The program was flagged for problems by Homeland Security.
The settlement of this lawsuit, however, leaves many unanswered questions about what how all this voter information was actually used.
North Carolina’s 2014 races were used by Cambridge Analytica as a “test bed” for their work with the Trump campaign in 2016.
Just a few months after the push by Tillis and the state GOP leadership to dump NC voting data in an insecure database in Kansas, Tillis and the NC GOP hired Cambridge Anaylitica to provide services to the Tillis campaign. We didn’t find out this bit of information until March 2018 after Cambridge Analyitca was implicated in the scandals surrounding Russian influence in the 2016 Trump election effort.
Yes, the company was found to have mishandled user data, harvesting it from Facebook and misusing it in the Trump campaign. I argued that CA couldn't have done this micro-targeting of voters on social media without more information about specific voting patterns - specific data that could really only come from something like Interstate Crosscheck.
Kobach’s Interstate Crosscheck program didn’t end with Trump’s election. Trump appointed Kobach to head up a Advisory Commission on Election Integrity and the only apparent goal of that effort was to create a central warehouse of voter data from every single state. The Commission was attacked by privacy and voting rights advocates, with many states refusing to turn over their voting data. It was disbanded in January 2018.
Did Kobach and his team turn over voter data from Interstate Crosscheck to Cambridge Analytica?
Although Thom Tillis and the GOP state leadership assured us that only publicly available voter data from North Carolina was turned over to Kobach, was that actually the case? Was there more information turned over to this group that we weren’t aware of?
Was the voter data hacked by scammers and used for identity theft? Shared with the Russians, the GOP or other players looking at election interference?
Was this data used in GOP gerrymandering efforts in North Carolina or other states? For targeting hacking of particular districts or cities voting systems?
Who has copies of this voter information now? How could it be misused in 2020?
Unfortunately, we may never really know the answers to these questions.