The Secretary of State's Office was ill-prepared for an error that briefly directed voters to a partisan group's online poll finder on Super Tuesday last year, according a state audit report released Tuesday.
For a 17-minute period on the morning of the March 3, 2020, presidential primary voters seeking information via the state's online polling-place finder were instead referred to a site operated by the partisan BoldProgressives.com group after the state's online tool crashed. Secretary of State Steve Simon quickly took responsibility for the lapse, which he said happened when a civil servant staffer in his IT department acted too quickly to find a link to redirect voters. Simon also denied any political motivation on behalf of the staffer.
A report on the glitch released Tuesday by the Office of the Legislative Auditor found Simon's statements were accurate but it said multiple staffers were to blame in addition to the single IT staffer Simon initially described. The report also concluded that Simon's office was not prepared to adequately redirect visitors from its web poll finder and that the office did not have a detailed definition of what would have been an appropriate alternative online source to share.
In the 17 minutes the Bold Progressives link was live, 69 voters voluntarily shared their contact information on a registration form. However, the group later confirmed that it removed the information from its database.
Tuesday's report also "did not find evidence of malicious intent or political motivation by any staff members in the Office of the Secretary of State."
In an interview after the report's release, Simon said it "corroborated and reaffirmed" his statements that quickly followed the glitch. The Legislative Auditor meanwhile concluded that Simon's office took "appropriate and necessary steps" to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future — including updating its elections emergency plan to include preapproved web addresses for an alternative poll finder.
Simon also pointed to the lack of incidents in the two statewide elections since Super Tuesday.
"I think the true test of a glitch like this is what you learn from it and whether you can apply constructive solutions," Simon said. "We have in two subsequent and far more complicated elections — the August primary and November general — everything worked flawlessly."
Stephen Montemayor • 612-673-1755