Local Editorials

Our view: Illinois must prioritize voter data security

Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks outside the Supreme Court after the court ruled June 27 in a setback for organized labor that states can't force government workers to pay union fees in Washington.
Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks outside the Supreme Court after the court ruled June 27 in a setback for organized labor that states can't force government workers to pay union fees in Washington.

Gov. Bruce Rauner doesn’t have the world’s best timing.

Fresh off celebrating a $15 million renovation of the Governor’s Mansion in a bankrupt state on Bastille Day, Illinois’ chief executive put his veto pen to a voter data security bill Tuesday, all while the national political media remained focus on the country’s relationship with Russia in light of the recent indictment of 12 intelligence officers accused of interfering in the 2016 election.

Rauner decided that despite lawmakers’ clear intentions, Illinois should stay in the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, an effort of the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office aimed at identifying people who register to vote in more than one state.

Make no mistake, this has been a partisan issue: Republicans are concerned about voter fraud and Democrats are concerned about voter suppression. The Illinois State Board of Elections was deadlocked, 4-4 (on partisan lines, of course), on staying or going, so the General Assembly, controlled by Democrats, said we should follow other states out of the program.

Rauner disagreed.

But not everyone opposed to staying in Crosscheck has done so based on a left-right bias. There are legitimate concerns about outdated data encryption technology and, according to various media reports, instances of data simply being emailed from state to state. Remember, this is the same elections board that said it believes Illinois is the state referenced as being accessed by Russian hackers in last week’s federal indictment.

Rauner himself is on the side of common sense here, issuing a statement implying he is “deeply troubled” by President Donald Trump’s comments while appearing with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday.

If that’s the case, why keep Illinois in a database absent of rock-solid data protection guarantees? Heck, should we be surprised if the other states kick us out, suggesting they don’t want any of their voters’ information on our clearly vulnerable systems?

The answer is that Rauner doesn’t think the security concerns are real.

If you’re keeping score at home, that means arguments that voters are trying to cheat the system are true, valid and nonpartisan, despite significant evidence, but the suggestion that voters’ data is at risk is a liberal fabrication, despite damning allegations from upper echelon federal criminal justice professionals.

Chicago Democratic Sen. Kwame Raoul sponsored the bill Rauner vetoed. He also happens to be the Democrats’ nominee for attorney general in November. But after witnessing what transpired in Helsinki and Washington, D.C., this week, it’s hard to disagree with his assertion that Trump seems unwilling to take real steps to safeguard voter privacy from Russian meddlers, which “makes the state duty bound to protect our own voters and their data.”

We call on lawmakers to override Rauner’s veto as soon as possible, and then propose new measures to make sure Illinois’ voter data security is as tight as any state in the nation.

Regardless of what happens with Crosscheck, Illinois still will be involved in the Electronic Registration Information Center, a similar database regarded as safer because it uses driver’s license data, not Social Security numbers. Rauner clearly believes Illinois never can have too much information, but even if we view his concern in a most favorable light, there’s no denying that at this moment in history all that superfluous data primarily offers hackers another potential safe to crack.

Illinoisans never should have to worry that being politically active makes them vulnerable to identity theft.

There’s no reason for that to be a partisan issue.

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