Minnesota Republican Party officials said Saturday they suspect hacking might have been to blame for technical issues that forced them to postpone a state convention held online because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Party leaders had hoped to use voting software in their virtual gathering to endorse a GOP candidate for U.S. Senate and elect delegates and alternates to this summer’s national convention in Charlotte, N.C. They were also scheduled to choose presidential electors.
But as the meeting got underway Saturday morning, party leaders quickly had to postpone it by three hours because of issues with the voting software.
“In great sadness I’m sorry to share with everyone we’re not going to be able to hold our convention today,” Jennifer Carnahan, chairwoman of the state Republican Party, told more than 1,500 party activists assembled at their home computers.
In the afternoon, a representative of the software provider, Florida-based Options Technology, came on to tell convention-goers that the system was showing more people logged in to vote than there were credentialed delegates. He called it “a situation beyond our control.” Both the company representative and Carnahan raised the possibility of outside interference.
“There is a possibility there was an attempt by an outside force to impede our system,” Carnahan said. In a subsequent news release, the party suggested more strongly that it had been hacked.
“Our vendor witnessed an unprecedented spike in volume they cannot attribute to normal use of any kind,” the party said. Carnahan said the party had filed reports with the Edina Police Department, the FBI and Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon. The online convention is expected to be rescheduled.
The main order of business for the Minnesota GOP is the endorsement of a U.S. Senate candidate to take on Democratic U.S. Sen. Tina Smith.
Jason Lewis, a former one-term congressman and conservative radio host, was widely expected to win GOP backing, though he faced a challenge from Rob Barrett, a professor and music producer.
The Minnesota DFL is scheduled to hold its state convention online at the end of May.