Steve Simon

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon

The State Finance and Policy and Elections Committee on Tuesday discussed a brief failure of Secretary of State Steve Simon’s online poll finder, which redirected some users to a partisan site that included polling information.

Simon was scheduled to be in the committee but sent a last-minute statement saying that he wouldn’t be able to attend.

Senate Republicans said that some voters were being “re-directed to private, partisan, progressive webpages for polling information on primary election day,” due to heavy traffic, according to a news release.

Some of those websites requested personal information before finding polling places, and one endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren. (Example 1, Example 2, Example 3).

Simon issued the following statement that service to the online poll finder was inaccessible for a short time, but is now restored. He said there’s no evidence the voting systems were hacked or interfered with.

“Our policy in the event of technical issues is that voters are redirected to find their information via the designated backup, Google’s nonpartisan Voting Information Project,” Simon said.

“In an urgent attempt to restore service, a staff person diverged from our emergency plan and, in a serious lapse of judgment, linked to a partisan website that contained polling place information. The moment this error was discovered, we corrected the link. The link in question was active for approximately 17 minutes.”

Simon said his staff will be working to ensure continued, reliable service so the office can report results Tuesday night.

State Mary Kiffmeyer, R- Big Lake, said an employee making that mistake was “a very concerning issue.”

Senator Carolyn Laine, DFL- Columbia Heights, said the issue shows that the Secretary Of State should receive additional money for more server space and bandwidth.

Kiffmeyer responded the Secretary Of State received a $905,000 operating increase to fund the office last year, adding the precinct poll finder has previously worked under a greater traffic volume in 2016 and 2018.

Senator Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, said that the partisan poll finder was only accessible for 17 minutes before it was fixed.

“We need to hold him accountable, certainly, but not to the point where we don’t accept that it was a mistake and that as soon as it was acknowledged, it was corrected,” she said.

Senator Mark Koran, R- North Branch, asked how they should know the systems will work for the presidential election in November.

Senator Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, questioned if the mistake violated Minnesota statute 211b.09.

That statute states that an employee of the state or official “may not use official authority or influence to compel a person to apply for membership in or become a member of a political organization, to pay or promise to pay a political contribution, or to take part in political activity.”

Senate Republicans said they would continue seeking answers to what went wrong. 

Staff Reporter

Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.