CHICAGO — Illinois election officials voted Monday to remain in a much-criticized multistate voter registration database, but opponents who raised questions about inaccuracies and security vowed to take the fight to the state Legislature.
For weeks, advocates and top Illinois Democrats — including both U.S. senators — have urged election officials to withdraw from the Kansas-run Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program. The goal of the voluntary program is to clean voter rolls by making sure a voter isn't registered in more than one place.
Advocates say the information isn't accurate enough to make that call and there are security issues. They also question links to conservative Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who runs the program and is a chairman of President Donald Trump's election fraud commission.
"I think we should get out of this thing," said State Board of Elections member William McGuffage, who echoed advocates' concerns.
However, the board voted 4-4 to withdraw. Five votes were needed for the motion to pass.
Among the concerns were that data passwords were emailed and that Kobach is too partisan. Trump's commission is asking states for voter information while it investigates the president's unsubstantiated claims that millions of people voted illegally in 2016. Some states have refused to participate.
Crosscheck began in 2005, before Kobach took office, as a way for Kansas and neighboring states to share information. More than two dozen states participate now, though a handful have left. Idaho election officials are also currently considering whether to remain in it. Illinois joined in 2010 and began submitting information the following year.
The system relies largely on names and birthdates, which security experts say isn't enough to verify identities. The program looks for duplicates, though it's up to individual states to then decide what to do with whatever information is found. In Illinois, it takes years to verify whether a person should be removed from voter rolls. In 2014, a county in Idaho acknowledged that it wrongly purged voters over Crosscheck information.
Kansas election officials said Monday they're working on new security guidelines with participating states. They argue it's a free service that offers hard-to-compile information and states are briefed on potential data problems.
"We are evaluating the entire security apparatus," said Bryan Caskey, director of elections for Kansas.
Steve Held, a member of Indivisible Chicago, which wants to leave Crosscheck, said he's skeptical of security evaluations and is already working with legislators to find a way for Illinois to exit.
Illinois election officials acknowledge the data isn't perfect, but said flawed information is better than none.
The state participates in another similar database, the Electronic Registration Information Center, or ERIC, which also relies on partial Social Security numbers. But that system costs money to join, fewer states participate and there isn't much overlap. For example, some of Illinois' neighboring states are enrolled in Crosscheck but not ERIC.