ACLU Charges Kobach on Release of Sensitive Voter Info

(CN) – Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach got more bad news Tuesday when the American Civil Liberties Union brought a federal class action against him, claiming a voter database system released personal voter information to the public.

The lawsuit came a day after the ACLU won a victory in federal court against Kobach, striking down a Kansas voter ID law that required Kansans to provide proof-of-citizenship documents to register to vote.

The Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program — Crosscheck — compares voter registrations across 28 states that participate in the program to check for double registrations. Kansas funds the program, which is run by Kobach’s office.

The complaint alleges that Crosscheck failed to protect sensitive voter information, including partial Social Security numbers.

“Kobach maintained a practice of sharing the sensitive personal information of Kansas voters with states that may have been required to release the information under their open records laws,” the ACLU said.

“At least three states that have participated in Crosscheck lack laws prohibiting the disclosure of Social Security numbers and other sensitive personal information,” the lawsuit states.

The class asks the state to stop participating in the program without proper security, and declaratory judgment that Kobach violated the 14th Amendment right to privacy, and the Kansas Public Records Act, which prohibits government disclosure of Social Security numbers.

Kobach’s emails included private voter information sent as unencrypted attachments to other states, creating a “substantial risk,” according to the ACLU: “A risk that materialized in November 2017 when Florida, a state that restricts disclosure of sensitive personal information, inadvertently released the partial Social Security number and personal identifying information of Kansas voters because defendant Kobach failed to encrypt a ‘potential double registrant’ list,” the complaint states.

The three named plaintiffs are Kansas voters whose information was released.

“You don’t have to share the concerns that many Kansans have about Sec. Kobach’s voter suppression tactics to be outraged by the way that Crosscheck has been implemented,” said Lauren Bonds, legal director of the ACLU of Kansas.

“This case is about a public official recklessly exposing the personal information of the state’s voters — Republican, Democratic, and unaffiliated alike — and unnecessarily leaving them vulnerable to identity theft.”

Crosscheck was created by Kobach’s predecessor Ron Thornburgh in 2005 in cooperation with three other states. Under Kobach’s time in office, the program was expanded to several others, with 100 million voter records on file.

Kobach’s office did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday afternoon.1

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