State Senator Kwame Raoul to introduce new bill to help Illinois voters counter “Interstate Crosscheck System”

By JOSEPH PHILLIPS
Staff Writer

State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-13), State Senator Bill Cunningham (D-18), several other legislators and Indivisible Chicago introduced a new legislation bill that will help end Illinois voters’ participation in the “Interstate Crosscheck System,” during a press conference, Thursday, Nov. 30, at the Blue Room on the 15th floor, in the Thompson Center, 100 W. Randolph St.

The bill proposes regulations to secure the use of confidential voter information.

The Illinois Board of Elections currently subscribes to two national voter database systems designed to help election authorities identify voters who may be registered in more than one state: The Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) and most recently the Interstate Crosscheck System (Crosscheck).

Crosscheck is a database used by officials in 27 states to identify voters potentially registered to vote in more than one state but with the new system comes the risk of purging legally registered voters, mostly from communities of color, from the voting lists.

Despite calls from state and national legislators to withdraw from the program, on Monday, Nov. 27, the State Board of Elections voted to remain in the Crosscheck national voter registration database.

The legislation being proposed will remove Illinois from the Crosscheck system but allow the state to remain in ERIC, according to Indivisible Chicago.

According to a statement from Raoul’s office, ERIC is a system designed for collecting and analyzing voter data. The group believes that the system is more secure than Crosscheck and that it would be independently managed and controlled by the participating states themselves. Under state law, participation in ERIC is mandatory, while participation in Crosscheck is voluntary.

“Crosscheck can be used to knock valid voters off the rolls, and it disproportionately impacts minority voters, who are more likely to share last names and be flagged by the system,” Raoul said in a phone interview with the Herald. “That flies in the face of the voter protection policies we have embraced in Illinois.”

ERIC’s system is more secure than Crosscheck because it is better designed to protect voter’s privacy, according to the statement from Raoul’s office. The system is independently managed and controlled by the states themselves and the system not only removes ineligible voters from the rolls but also engages with eligible voters who are not registered, therefore promoting voter participation rather than suppressing it, like Crosscheck does.

The group views ERIC as the better system. Many voters’ rights activists said that Crosscheck is a vehicle for discrimination at the voting booth. This is because Crosscheck compares first and last names of state voter databases, ignoring middle names and designations like Jr. or Sr. This is viewed as problematic by experts because communities of color are more likely to share last names, making them easy targets for voter suppression.

Raoul said despite the vote, it’s his duty to get something done.

“If the Board of Elections will not act to protect Illinois voters, then it is our duty as legislators to do so,” Raoul said in a written statement. “The right to vote is sacred, and citizens in our state should know that their information is secure when they cast their ballots.”

Indivisible Chicago, outlined their bill at the press conference. The group said its objective is to “propose regulations to secure the use of confidential voter information after the State Board of Elections last week, in a party-line vote, failed to pull Illinois from the controversial Crosscheck program, which lacks the security to protect voter data.”

Cunningham said in a written statement that, “The risk of exposing the personal information of millions of Illinois voters to an Equifax-style data breach is not worth the small benefit of remaining in the Crosscheck system. This should not be a partisan issue — it is a data protection issue and it must be addressed immediately.”

j.phillips@hpherald.com