Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is touting a controversial multistate voter database as a key resource in response to U.S. Department of Justice questions about Kansas’ compliance with federal voting law.
In a recent letter to the Justice Department, obtained by the Kansas News Service through an open records request, Kobach describes the database as “one of the most important systems” Kansas uses to check the accuracy of voter rolls.
Kobach has long said the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program — which began in 2005 under previous Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh — serves as a valuable tool for protecting the integrity of elections by allowing officials in about 30 states to compare their voter rolls in search of people who are double registered.
Critics, however, question the program’s value, saying poor data quality means there is far greater potential for mistakenly assuming people with the same name and birthdate to be the same person.
In his letter to the Justice Department, Kobach said the database serves to identify “potential duplicate registrations,” which can then be checked further.
His letter is a reply to the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, which in June contacted election officials in all 50 states seeking details about how they comply with the National Voter Registration Act.
The Justice Department made its request on June 28 — the same day that Kobach, as vice chairman of President Donald Trump’s commission on voter fraud, asked all states for voter roll data.
The Justice Department asked states to reply within 30 days, but the reply from Kobach’s office is dated Aug. 31.
A Justice Department spokeswoman confirmed this week that Kansas’ letter has been received and is being reviewed. The spokeswoman declined to answer questions about the content of Kansas’ reply, the date of its submission and whether the Justice Department has received responses from all 50 states yet.
Kobach’s office declined to answer questions about the timing of the response and whether the office had sought an extension from the Justice Department.
Among the Justice Department’s questions to Kobach’s office, also obtained through an open records request, are requests for copies of policies and statutes related to removing names from the rolls when voters die or become ineligible because of a change of address. Kobach’s letter points the Justice Department to an online manual for Kansas elections.
The president’s commission on voter fraud, which includes Kobach as vice chairman, will meet Tuesday in New Hampshire.
Celia Llopis-Jepsen is a reporter for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio and KMUW covering health, education and politics. You can reach her on Twitter @Celia_LJ. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to kcur.org.