Government

Secretary of State Office: Incorrect polling location texts appear to be a campaign error

Marilyn Keister casts her ballot during the early voting period at the Cedar Rapids Public Service Center on Thursday, May 31, 2018, to avoid long lines during the elections. (Hannah Schroeder/The Gazette)
Marilyn Keister casts her ballot during the early voting period at the Cedar Rapids Public Service Center on Thursday, May 31, 2018, to avoid long lines during the elections. (Hannah Schroeder/The Gazette)

Officials with the Iowa Secretary of State Office say text messages directing voters to incorrect polling locations appear to have been a campaign’s mistake.

Kevin Hall, communications director with the Iowa Secretary of State Office, said Tuesday county auditors in Black Hawk, Johnson, Linn, Polk and Winneshiek counties reported voters being texted incorrect polling locations.

“We believe that the erroneous text messages were sent in error by a campaign and their intent was not malicious,” Hall said in an email, adding that further comments would not be made until all the details surrounding the incident are confirmed and verified.

Officials with Linn and Johnson counties said they do not send text notifications regarding polling location information. They reminded residents to check their polling place if they are unsure of where to cast their vote.

Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert said this is the first time he’s encountered such a scenario, but added that polls remain secure.

“I’m reassuring voters that, when you come out and vote today, all of our equipment is secure and there is nothing to worry about,” he said. “We’re not even saying this is somebody up to no good or trying to mess with the election at this point. We’re just trying to find out what happened and where it happened.”

However, Weipert added his big concern was that voters who end up at the wrong polling location — and have to be directed to the appropriate site — could get frustrated and not vote at all.

Weipert said the inaccurate text messages appear to be coming from a toll-free 844 area code. He added that the text messages — some of which he said also reference specific candidates — have been reported to the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Becky Stonawski, deputy auditor for elections in Linn County, also confirmed reports of incorrect text messages.

“We’ve reported that to the Linn County Sheriff’s Office, the Secretary of State’s Office and our IT department,” Stonawski said.

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate on Tuesday posted on Twitter that four counties had reported text messages to voters with incorrect polling place information.

“We are investigating. Some of the erroneous text messages start with, ‘Tomorrow is the Democratic Primary,’” Pate said in the tweet.

Johnson County voters can find their polling location at https://gis.johnson-county.com/generalpollingplaces or by calling 319-356-6004.

Linn County voters can do so at http://www.linncountyelections.org/lookup or by calling 319-893-5300.

Voters in other Iowa counties should contact their county auditor or use the Iowa Secretary of State website at https://sos.iowa.gov/elections/voterreg/pollingplace/search.aspx.

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Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday. Voters are asked to provide identification when voting, under the state’s new voter ID law.

l Comments: (319) 398-8309; mitchell.schmidt@thegazette.com

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