State Elections Website Riddled With Errors As Voters Head to the Polls

Nov 7, 2017

If you’re looking for the latest information on how to vote in the local elections happening across New Hampshire today, you’d probably turn to the state elections website for the most reliable information.

But as voters across New Hampshire headed to the polls Tuesday, the state’s website included several broken links and blank pages where details on voter registration were supposed to be.

In the days leading up to Tuesday’s elections, several residents reported running into blank pages when following tabs for voter registration information on the Secretary of State’s website.

Up-to-date information could be found in several places — like this "How to Register to Vote" FAQ page and this "Registering to Vote in New Hampshire" page — but those are just two of several links directing website visitors to voting instructions. 

When NHPR independently tested out the links to registration information on the Secretary of State’s website on Monday night and Tuesday morning, we encountered at least five different dead ends along the way. 

In one case, the “Elections Division” tab listed on the Secretary of State’s home page directed voters to a “Voter Registration” page that was blank. If voters clicked on the “Election Division” landing page and navigated through for more information on “Voting in New Hampshire,” the links listed on that page for “Absentee Voter Registration” and “Voter Registration Deadlines” both led to a page that included the title “How to Register to Vote in New Hampshire” — and nothing else.

These pages were missing information for most of the day Tuesday.

The missing information doesn’t just affect people seeking information directly from the Secretary of State’s website. While local elections offices often maintain their own repositories of voter registration instructions, some also direct voters to the state website for up-to-date information.

Under one “How to Vote” section on Dover’s website, for example, the city spells out registration instructions but also notes, “The New Hampshire Secretary of State's office also provides additional information about voter registration here.” That link led to a page on the Secretary of State’s website that was blank, except for a “How to Register to Vote in New Hampshire” title. It had not yet been updated as of Tuesday afternoon.

This isn’t the first time that information was missing from key pages on the Secretary of State’s website on the day of an election. Several pages containing voter registration instructions (including “How to Register to Vote,” “Voting as a College Student,” “General FAQs” and “Voter Registration FAQs”) were also down the day of the Sept. 19 municipal elections.

Deputy Secretary of State Dave Scanlan said the office needed to revise the pages to reflect new requirements under Senate Bill 3, which went into effect Sept. 8, and other changes to how election officials verify absentee ballots.

Scanlan also cited instructions from a judge’s order in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Senate Bill 3, which directed the state to make sure its website includes up-to-date information about voter registration requirements — “something we would have done anyway,” Scanlan said at the time.

On the right, the Secretary of State's website as it appeared this morning. (The red highlighting was added to show links that have since been deleted.) On the right, the website now includes blank space where some of the links to blank pages used to be.

The Secretary of State’s office did ultimately update some of the pages that were down the day of the municipal election, but others remained blank.

When contacted with questions about the lingering website issues on Tuesday morning, Scanlan wrote: “Thank you for pointing this out. I have received no complaints about pages being blank. The information is up on our website, but apparently not every link is hooked up. We are going to correct that as soon as we can.”

By mid-afternoon, the state had removed several of the tabs that were linking to blank pages earlier in the day.

One link to “Voter Registration FAQs,” which previously led to a blank page, now leads to an error page. (As seen below.)

When voters follow one link on the state elections website to "Voter Registration FAQ," they now encounter this error page.