Questions Remain About Nevada Crosscheck Program

I must admit I’m not fundamentally opposed to the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program – IF it will prevent Allistair Barrenfarm Gotrocks IV from rolling his Bentley to his convenient polling precinct in the Hamptons early on some fine election morning, then hopping into his Bombardier Global 8000 to his equally convenient polling station for his second home in Florida; while his absentee ballot is counted in his resort community of Ketchum, Idaho.  This, I could do without.  However…

As RollingStone magazine pointed out last August, this isn’t the ulterior purpose of the Crosscheck Program.   The process was supposed to have included names (including middle names and initials) birthdays, and Social Security numbers.   If the voting officials in a particular state don’t require the Social Security number, the birthday, and the middle name all that the Crosscheck list presents is a mass of very common names.  And, the bias begins:

“This inherent bias results in an astonishing one in six Hispanics, one in seven Asian-Americans and one in nine African-Americans in Crosscheck states landing on the list. Was the program designed to target voters of color? “I’m a data guy,” Swedlund says. “I can’t tell you what the intent was. I can only tell you what the outcome is. And the outcome is discriminatory against minorities.”  [RollingStone]

The response from Nevada, which participates in the Crosscheck program,  was a bit confusing.  A Nevada official replied to the Crosscheck question by saying:

“I can’t comment specifically on their study. What I can say is that in Nevada, we follow the federal and state procedures when it comes to removing voters from the rolls. We don’t look at a person’s name. We don’t actually collect demographic data on voters, so we don’t know race, ethnicity on any voters in our list.” [News4]

How can maintenance of up to date voter registration lists be done without looking at names? Either John P. Smith, of Henderson, NV has voted in the last two general elections – or he hasn’t.  He’s either been declared dead by Social Security officials – or he hasn’t.   The official from the Nevada Secretary of State’s office got a bit more specific:

“Wayne Thorley, Nevada’s deputy secretary of state for elections, counters that the program just matches data and doesn’t target anyone.
“Just because someone comes back as a match on the Interstate Crosscheck list, it doesn’t automatically trigger cancellation of their account,” he said. “And then, further investigation is done by the state.”
He said Nevada also uses the Electronic Registration Information Center to match names from the Crosscheck list with DMV records. Voters then get a postcard to verify their address and if they don’t respond and don’t vote in two elections, they’re dropped from the rolls.” [PNS.org]

It seems that names do matter?  However, there are still questions which might be raised about how the Crosscheck list is actually used in Nevada. For example:  What further investigation is done by the State?  Does this mean that the election officials just compare the voter registration with DMV records?   The NAC can provide us with a bit more clarification regarding how the Secretary of State’s office is to handle voter lists:

NAC 293.462  Verification of information by Secretary of State. (NRS 293.124, 293.675)  On each business day, the Secretary of State will check the contents of the statewide voter registration list by:

     1.  Determining whether any person is included as a registered voter in the statewide voter registration list more than once.

     2.  For every registered voter who submitted an application to register to vote on or after January 1, 2006, comparing the driver’s license number, identification card number or last four digits of the social security number of the voter set forth in the statewide voter registration list, if any, with the information in the appropriate database of the Department.

     (Added to NAC by Sec’y of State by R018-07, eff. 9-18-2008)”

At least Nevada officials must incorporate at least part of the Social Security number in the “investigation.”  But when we’re just starting to get comfortable there’s this section which isn’t quite so clear:

“NAC 293.466  Correction of inaccurate or duplicative information; casting of provisional ballot in certain circumstances. (NRS 293.124, 293.675)

     1.  If a county clerk receives notice from the Secretary of State or another county clerk that the statewide voter registration list contains information that is potentially inaccurate, duplicative or otherwise requiring verification, the county clerk shall, not later than 5 calendar days after receiving such notification, take such action as is necessary to correct the information in the statewide voter registration list and in the computerized database established pursuant to NAC 293.454.

     2.  If the county clerk is unable to obtain the correct information relating to the voter that is described in subsection 1 before the day of an election, the voter must show such identification before any ballot may be cast, except that a voter may cast a provisional ballot pursuant to the provisions of NRS 293.3081 to 293.3086, inclusive.

     (Added to NAC by Sec’y of State by R018-07, eff. 9-18-2008)”

What would make a state election official think a registration was ‘potentially inaccurate?’ Duplicative? “Otherwise requiring verification?”  If a Crosscheck list shows a John Paul Smith registered to vote in Richmond, VA and a John P. Smith registered to voter in Henderson, NV, then does this make John P. Smith liable for be investigated as “otherwise requiring verification?”  The Nevada Revised Statutes make this a little more clear:

“NRS 293.675  Establishment and maintenance of list; requirements pertaining to list; duties of county and city clerks; cooperative agreement with Department of Motor Vehicles; verification of information in conjunction with Social Security Administration; agreements with state agencies to obtain information necessary for list; information may be requested from or provided to chief election officers of other states.

      1.  The Secretary of State shall establish and maintain an official statewide voter registration list, which may be maintained on the Internet, in consultation with each county and city clerk.   2.  The statewide voter registration list must:

      (a) Be a uniform, centralized and interactive computerized list;

      (b) Serve as the single method for storing and managing the official list of registered voters in this State;

      (c) Serve as the official list of registered voters for the conduct of all elections in this State;

      (d) Contain the name and registration information of every legally registered voter in this State;

      (e) Include a unique identifier assigned by the Secretary of State to each legally registered voter in this State;

      (f) Except as otherwise provided in subsection 6, be coordinated with the appropriate databases of other agencies in this State;

      (g) Be electronically accessible to each state and local election official in this State at all times;

      (h) Except as otherwise provided in subsection 7, allow for data to be shared with other states under certain circumstances; and

      (i) Be regularly maintained to ensure the integrity of the registration process and the election process.”  (emphasis added)

If (e ) above requiring the unique verifier is applied then the probability that a person can be purged from voter registration lists is diminished, especially if this means both the full name and the Social Security number.  We’re still not quite out of the woods yet.

We’re still going to have to deal with domestic migration, especially in Clark County:

“People moving to Clark County from other places in the United States are at a five-year high, data released by the U.S. Census on Thursday show. The number of people moving into the county from within the U.S. outnumbered residents moving out from July 1, 2014, to July 1, 2015. The net increase, which has been rising for the past two years, was close to 25,000, with foreign migration accounting for an additional 8,000 new residents.

Clark County has grown incrementally over the last five years, rising from 0.7 percent growth in July 2011 to 2.2 percent growth in July 2015. What has changed is that domestic migration is driving that growth. Births minus deaths, or natural population change, once paralleled domestic migration numbers in the county from July 1, 2011, to July 1, 2013. The year before that, Clark County saw negative domestic migration. In the years following, domestic migration comprised most of the growth.”

[… ]  Just who are the new residents? January data of new Nevada driver’s license applicants show that a third, or 20,000, are from California followed by Texas and Florida at 3,000 each.

Perhaps more telling is that roughly half are in the 19-to-39 age range. Sure, some could be college students, but mostly, they are assumed to be part of the growing workforce that accompanies job growth.”  [LVRJ] (emphasis added)

The age range is important – 19-39, as in  eligible to vote.  How many “domestic migrants” to Nevada didn’t bother to tell California county clerks they moved, never intended to vote in a California election again, intended to be permanent residents in Nevada and register there?  The Didn’t Bother Factor drives some of the right wing conspiracy theories about the number of ineligible, i.e. potential duplicate, voters – particularly among the followers of Purger In Chief Kobach of Kansas:

“In January 2013, Kobach addressed a gathering of the National Association of State Election Directors about combating an epidemic of ballot-stuffing across the country. He announced that Crosscheck had already uncovered 697,537 “potential duplicate voters” in 15 states, and that the state of Kansas was prepared to cover the cost of compiling a nationwide list. That was enough to persuade 13 more states to hand over their voter files to Kobach’s office.”  [RS]

In the fevered minds of conspiracy theory advocates 697,537 “potential duplicate voters” is the same things as real ballot stuffing felons.  Some of these people are the same ones who believe “3,000,000 illegal votes were cast for Secretary Clinton in the last election.”  First, there was no epidemic of ballot stuffing across the country.  Secondly, this canard was spread by none other than Dick Morris, and promptly debunked. [Polifact]  Third, that didn’t stop the Federalist Society from climbing on board the “potential” fraud bandwagon citing conservative sources and 20 instances of fraudulent voter registration applications in Virginia.  Not actual voter fraud mind you, just fraudulent applications which obviously were caught. One of the more intriguing claims in the Federalist piece is that we can’t know how much voter fraud is going because people don’t report regular criminal behavior. Under reporting is not proof of criminal behavior, and arguments by analogy break down faster than just about any other form.

Since the Crosscheck program has been so problematic that Florida and Oregon have dropped it, and since the implementation of it has been plagued with the issues cited in the RollingStone article, Nevada should seriously consider dropping its participation.  Failing that, Nevada could consider specifying more clearly what the Unique Verifiers are in NRS 293.675 – requiring state election officials to compare middle names or at least initials, and Social Security numbers.   No county clerk’s office should be handed a list without the assurance of state officials that mistakes have not been made concerning ANY potential duplication.  The use of a faulty list to “improve election integrity” is self defeating and frankly makes no sense whatsoever.

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