Sununu’s Veto of HB 315 Rejects Requirement for Security When Sharing Voter Information

Earlier this month, the House took up the Governor’s veto of HB315, which would have ended NH’s involvement with the Kansas-based Interstate Voter Registration Program and authorize the Secretary of State to join another program to compare NH”s voter registration information with that of other states to search for duplicate registrations or voting activity.

In his veto message, the Governor wrote: “House Bill 315 would impose unreasonable restrictions on the Secretary of State’s ability to determine the best voter registration information sharing arrangement for our state. New Hampshire should maintain the Secretary of State’s flexibility on this issue and trust him to make the best decision for the people of New Hampshire…”

So what is the “Crosscheck” program — or more appropriately, what was the “Crosscheck” program?

Crosscheck is database software designed to compare voter records from member states to identify voters who may have registered in two or more states and voters who may have voted in two or more states.  Crosscheck was developed by former Kansas Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh in 2005 and it expanded to a peak of 29 member states in 2014 under the direction of former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

It should be noted that Kris Kobach was chair of President Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity (a/k/a Voter Fraud Commission), which was established in 2017.  NH Secretary of State Bill Gardner was a member of that commission. And it should also be noted that prior to the November 2016 Presidential Election, Governor Sununu claimed on the Howie Carr radio show that Democrats are “busing them [Massachusetts residents] in all over the place” and picking a phony address for people to use for same-day registration in NH.  Sununu subsequently walked back his comments, but President Trump repeated the Governor’s claim in 2016 and again in 2019.

2017 was Crosscheck’s final year of operation, though the program was not officially shut down until 2019.

Why did the program cease operation? In 2017, working from evidence supplied by Indivisible Chicago, journalists exposed the flawed security practices with which Kansas managed the database.  In January 2018, a Kansas resident filed a records request with Florida for documents concerning Crosscheck. In response, Florida released the partial social security numbers for nearly 1,000 Kansas residents unredacted. That same month, the Kansas Secretary of State’s office announced it would allow the Department of Homeland Security to perform a security review, which was completed in February.  In June 2018, the Kansas American Civil Liberties organization sued the state over the use of the program asserting it was a security disaster that wound up making the voter rolls vulnerable to hacking. In December 2019, the program was suspended indefinitely as part of a settlement of the lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Kansas.

So what did HB 315 seek to accomplish?

  1. It removed language from the statutes authorizing the Secretary of State to participate in Crosscheck.
  2. It directed the Secretary of State to “become a member of a program or organization whose membership is composed of state, local, District of Columbia, or voting territory election officials from the United States and whose purpose is to share and exchange information to improve the accuracy and efficiency of voter registration systems.”
  3. In the alternative, the Secretary of State was directed to submit a report to the General Court to explain why he chose “not [to] participate in such program or organization.”
  4. And, finally, if a program was selected, the Secretary of State was to select a program that “shall ensure that any information or data shared between the agencies is protected by security processes and protocols and that any information or data that is of a confidential nature remains confidential.”

The Governor vetoed HB 315 because, he said, it placed “unreasonable restrictions on the Secretary of State’s ability to determine the best voter registration information sharing arrangement for our state.”

The only “restriction” placed on the Secretary of State by HB 315 was that he ensure whatever program he chose to participate in would have security protocols in place to protect the confidential information of New Hampshire’s voters.

That is not an unreasonable request.

 

Photo credit: NH Secretary of State Bill Gardner, right, introduces one of the speakers at a meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity in Manchester, N.H. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, center, and former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, left, also attend. (AP Photo/Holly Ramer, File, Sept. 12, 2017.)