Secretary of State: Staffer 'diverged from our emergency plan' after polling tool went down

Minnesota's Secretary of State says issues with the office's "pollfinder tool" Tuesday weren't related to hacking, but a staff member diverged from the plan and linked to a partisan website.

Secretary of State Steve Simon said the office's pollfinder tool to help voters locate nearby polling places was inaccessible on the office's website for a portion of time Tuesday. During that time, the site said, "Due to heavy demand, you may be directed to a trusted external site to find your polling place information," and linked to an external site. However, users discovered the link at one point directed them to, a progressive organization that endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren.

Simon said the office's policy is to redirect voters to the nonpartisan Voting Information Project if its pollfinder is down.

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"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," Simon said. "The moment this error was discovered, we corrected the link. The link in question was active for approximately 17 minutes."

"Anyone who knows me knows that I place the highest possible value on the nonpartisanship of this office, and I deeply regret this error. Every Minnesota voter deserves a voting experience free of partisan influence, and I am committed to providing exactly that," Simon added.

It's unclear why the pollfinder tool was inaccessible in the first place, but Simon said there's no evidence of hacking or any other interference.

At a senate hearing Tuesday, lawmakers questioned what happened.

"This is completely unacceptable for the state of Minnesota, for this to be done and redirected to a site like this," said State Senator John Jasinski, (R) Faribault. 

"The thought that some employee would be able to do that and redirect again invites even more questions, how did that happen, what is the process, what did you do, why are you doing that, why doesn't the system itself, which hasn't failed before, what's happening in your office that it is failing today," questioned State Senator Mary Kiffmeyer, (R) Big Lake.

However, not everyone had terse words for the secretary of state.

"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," said State Senator An Rest, (DFL) New Hope.