My first Kansas Open Records Act (my first ever FOIA!) was sent to the Kansas Secretary of State in April of 2017 and asked for, among other things, the cost to run and use Crosscheck.
Unsurprisingly to any journalist, activist or interested voter who has ever submitted a KORA request, I got no response. (The lack of response by Mr. Kobach's office to records requests is something I sincerely wish a journalist would address. I could find you dozens of sources within a day.)
Although my interest in Crosscheck had started as "How much is Kansas paying for this? We can't afford it!" I had begun to worry "Is Kansas paying enough to do the job right? This is way too important and complex a job to do on a shoestring!"
By this time, I had become alarmed that Kansas was taking possession of 98 million voters' private data every year. I'd read on the ericstates.org website about their painstaking data security protocols.
Was Kansas this careful with data handling and data security? Could Kansas be held liable if there was a data breach? Were we protected by data liability insurance?
The level of financial risk we are taking makes my blood run cold.
As I researched Crosscheck over the spring and early summer of 2017, my working theory was that there was no way Kansas was spending enough to do the job right. This was based on a couple of things. The lack of professionalism of the documentation, presentations, and match criteria gave Crosscheck the appearance of a project done on-the-cheap. I started to wonder if it was as simple as a massive Excel spreadsheet or a SQL query.
By this point, I'd realized that talking up the "Kansas is paying for this!" got people's attention. And even though I suspected we didn't pay much to run it, it didn't look like we were going to get a direct answer unless pressure was applied.
So we applied pressure. Social media chatter about defunding Crosscheck got fairly loud.
Some of the chatter must have made it to Topeka, because on January 10th, 2018 when Kobach testified at the House Election Committee and was asked about Crosscheck, he moved quickly to dispel any worries.
"Kansas spends zero dollars on Crosscheck", he bragged. Crosscheck's code was written in 2005, and it is run each year with existing staff.***
A database of this scale - nearly 100 million records - is a very attractive target for foreign nations, profiteering hackers, or partisan bad actors.
And data security is not cheap.
So maybe bragging about how little you have spent to keep 100 million American citizens' private data safe in an atmosphere were election interference is a national concern isn't the greatest strategy?
Mr. Kobach should not be surprised if states opt against sending data to the "free" Crosscheck program in 2018.
***Edited to add that no one buys his argument that this program is free to Kansas.