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Florida confirms 'inadvertent' release of Kansas voters' information

Efforts to detect voter fraud led to the exposure of private voter data from nearly 1,000 Kansas residents this year by the state of Florida, which released information including partial Social Security numbers to a woman who had filed a public records request.

The Associated Press reports that the incident is raising more questions about the Interstate Crosscheck System, which was designed in Kansas to detect double voting or people who register to vote in more than one state, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

The Crosscheck system, set up in 2005 by former Kansas Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh, has been criticized in the past for concerns about security and identifying false matches.

In response to the data exposure, Florida election officials offered a year of free fraud detection and protection services to those affected by the data release.

This is at least the third time since 2015 that Gov. Rick Scott’s administration has inadvertently released confidential personal data of private citizens.

In 2013, Kansas sent a list of 945 potential double registrants to Florida over an unsecured email account. The list of voters in the two states who shared first and last names and a date of birth also included partial Social Security numbers. In September, the Florida Department of State released the list in response to an open records request filed by Anita Parsa, a resident of Mission Hills, Kansas.

Parsa said she didn’t ask for any data but was trying to determine why Florida decided to leave the Crosscheck program.

When she saw the unsecured email, “I was floored,” said Parsa, who began working with the advocacy group Indivisible Chicago after filing the request.

Kansas Director of Elections Bryan Caskey said the email violates existing policies. He said the Kansas database of nearly 100 million records is secure and has never been breached.

While acknowledging that Kansas should not have sent the data via an unsecured email he said, “I also am adamant that Florida had no business turning that over to any third party,” Caskey said.

In a statement released Friday, Florida officials called the release “inadvertent” and said the state will contact people affected by the release. It is also offering a free one-year membership to the Lifelock program out of “an abundance of caution.”

“At this time, the department has no reason to believe individuals’ information has been misused,” the release said.

Bills are pending in the Florida Legislature this session that would add Florida to another information-sharing program known as ERIC, or Electronic Registration Information Center. County election supervisors say the program would enable Florida to track incidents in which voters are registered in more than one state.

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