Minnesota Senate Republicans said they want to know “if any law has been broken” after the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website was redirecting voters to a progressive website Tuesday.
As The Minnesota Sun reported, Secretary of State Steve Simon apologized after voters were briefly redirected from his office’s “pollfinder” tool to the website of a progressive organization that has endorsed Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) for president.
Simon blamed the error on a staff member’s “serious lapse of judgment” and canceled his scheduled appearance at a Senate hearing to ensure the rest of the day went smoothly.
“If it’s all hands on deck, he should be able to be here to answer our questions,” said Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake), a former secretary of state, in a statement released Tuesday.
“In fact, I have even more questions. How did the staffer gain access to do this? Where did they get this list of sites? And why, having received an increase of funding each year to fully fund their needs, does the Secretary need to rely on third parties when this system has worked fine for much bigger elections?” she continued.
Sen. John Jasinski (R-Faribault) pointed out that Simon acknowledged the error wasn’t “hacking” but a “mistake.”
“How can we be sure this won’t happen in the next election?” he said, noting that state law prevents state employees from taking part in any political activity on state time.
“What I want to know is what, if any, law has been broken here?” added Sen. Scott Newman (R- Hutchinson). “Clearly, this is an employee inserting their own political agenda using state time and resources. And if that isn’t a violation of state law, it should be.”
Sen. Mark Koran (R-North Branch) said lawmakers have yet to find out why the Secretary of State’s elections reporting website failed last November.
“I’m wondering when we’re going to stop seeing failures and start getting answers from this office,” he said.
Kiffmeyer said that Simon’s statement explaining the error was insufficient.
“We need answers from him to these questions, and maybe more questions, as we learn what happened,” she said.
Republicans on the State Government and Elections Committee submitted a list of 22 questions to Simon’s office regarding the mistake, which are:
- Why is the Secretary of State office’s website redirecting voters to a partisan website that endorsed Elizabeth Warren?
- The original website voters were redirected to, act.boldprogressive.org, is currently down. Did you or your staff direct this website to be shut down?
- What communication or involvement did the office have with this website and their developers in fixing this issue?
- This website also prompted many to submit identifying personal data such as name and email address to gain access to their polling place information. Who has access to this data?
- Does the Secretary of State have an agreement with these sites to share data?
- If so, what data is included?
- What other websites are Minnesotans potentially redirected to when trying to use this function or any function found on the SOS website?
- What list of websites are authorized to be used in the case a redirect from the original Secretary of State website?
- What is your vetting process for the sites used by your office?
- Who has oversight over the selection of which websites are used?
- What paperwork or approval process do the redirect sites go through to be linked?
- What follow-up, if any, are given to ensure these sites serve the public in a non-partisan manner?
- How many people were redirected to the act.boldprogressive.org site when looking for their polling places?
- What other sites were the public redirected to, other than the one mentioned above?
- How many visits to your website will cause it to be overloaded and prompt this re-direct page to appear?
- How many individual website visits can you accommodate in any given day?
- If your system can’t handle around half a million voters today, what are you going to do when the number of voters is 3 million later this year?
- What steps have you taken to address the influx of requests and site traffic leading up to, and on, election day?
- Last year there were issues with your website reporting municipal election results. How can you guarantee our results for the primary tonight, or future general election, will not be in jeopardy as well?
- What steps will you take to preserve the public trust in the Secretary of States’ office and their election security?
- What guarantees can you give the public to ensure that they are being treated in a non-partisan, fair manner, when participating in elections?
- What are you doing to address IT related issues, specifically relating to elections?
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