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Secretary of state: Super Tuesday website mistake won’t be repeated

By Tim Nelson

Secretary of State Steve Simon says there won’t be a repeat of the Super Tuesday lapse that sent people using the state’s poll-finding tool to a partisan website.

“It was a mistake for 17 minutes, which is 17 too many,” said Simon, a two-term DFLer.

Heavy traffic by voters trying to find their polling locations overloaded the secretary of state’s website Tuesday. As a fallback, some voters were temporarily directed to the webpage of boldprogressives.org, which has endorsed Democratic presidential contender Elizabeth Warren.

“It was an error in judgement,” said Simon. “The person who made a mistake had no political agenda or anything. This was a career service employee and it was just a mistake and we corrected it immediately.”

The partisan site did offer poll information. But it also asked visitors for personal information, including their email address and ZIP code. That information is not required and isn’t sufficient to determine a polling location.

The link was eventually replaced with another that directed voters to a nonpartisan online polling place locator.

Simon outlined three steps his office is taking to prevent a repeat of the problem:

Websites that could be used as a fallback during periods of heavy traffic to the secretary of state’s office will have to be preapproved.

More than one staff member must approve a similar change.

Staff will be required to adhere to preset contingency plans.

Republican lawmakers criticized Simon and his office for the erroneous website redirect.

“This kind of push polling by the secretary of state or frankly any elected official is absolutely improper,” said state Sen. Scott Newman, a Republican from Hutchinson.

Former Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer said she didn’t understand how the situation arose in the first place. The Republican senator from Big Lake said the state’s own computer systems should have been able to handle any poll inquiries.

“We’ve given the secretary of state money, almost a $1 million a year operational increase,” said Kiffmeyer. “We’ve given him other things that he’s asked for. So, I do not understand why this should fail. And this isn’t even the big election.”

MPR reporter Tim Pugmire contributed to this report.