Most Untrustworthy: Consultants, Polls Or The Secretary of State’s Website?

January 8, 2014 16:00 pm

by Mike Hassinger · 50 comments

There are things you can’t trust in politics, such as political consultants. (Ahem.) Also, polls. But since everyone knows to take those entities with a grain of salt, trust really isn’t the issue with consultants or polls. People expect them to deliver “counterfactual” information. People do not expect the Secretary of State’s website to be “counterfactual” -lots of people depend on the SOS website working well and delivering accurate information 24/7.

The website for Georgia’s Secretary of State, though, can’t currently be trusted. Recently “revamped,” the site now brings us information like this:

That’s a screen cap showing that Paul Broun, John Barrow, Martha Zoller,  and Al Sanders are running for the US Senate being vacated by Senator Saxby Chambliss -and that they’ll be on the November 2012 ballot. Sonuva glitch!

As website rollouts go, this has been the second-worst one in recent memory -and you know what the worst one was.

Others have noticed various problems with the site as well. There have been issues with browser incompatibility. There appears to be an ongoing problem with searching for corporations. Can you find a copy of the Georgia Constitution? Nope. How about a nice vanity splash page of the Secretary himself instead? And while it appears that the results of recent elections are now available, (finally) you may want to check your “MyVoter” page to see if you’re actually registered, as some people have reported that they can find no record of themselves on the new website.

To his credit, Secretary of State Brian Kemp has acknowledged the “unusually long processing time for new filings… repeated requests for changes from the Corporations Division… [and] inconsistent data from the former system to the new system” (pdf). He’s promised to put more resources and staff training on the various issues, but also blames funding, and “heavy call volume due to …professional licensing deadlines and voter registration.” Fine, but aren’t those things the mission of the Secretary of State?

Secretary Kemp also asks “…that you continue to provide… feedback regarding the new system.”   Which is why we have a comments section.



Charlie January 8, 2014 at 4:11 pm

Because I have not learned how to screen Doug Richards phone calls effectively, I will be discussing this with him tonight at 6PM on 11Alive news.

Harry January 8, 2014 at 9:09 pm

Tell them to pay you, then you’ll take his calls.

Nathan January 8, 2014 at 4:15 pm

It took me a good bit to find the election results last night on the new, “improved” website. I don’t think “user-friendly” comes to mind. At least I’m still registered to vote according to the My Voter Page…for now.

Someone needs to make sure the hamsters haven’t keeled-over.

Thomas Adams (@GeorgiaCRE) January 8, 2014 at 4:30 pm

Most Untrustworthy: Consultants, Polls Or The Secretary of State’s Website?

Dem in the Burbs January 8, 2014 at 4:40 pm

But at least the website has a nice picture of him that takes up half of the front page . . .

Jay Williams January 8, 2014 at 5:06 pm

Mike do you really feel like the previous site was more functional, efficient and helpful than that new one? Have you even been to the old site?

What statistics or data do you have that that says the rollout of this site was not successful or that folks have not been able to get what they need from the site — outside of a few self serving twitter posts? You do realize that tens of thousands of folks access this site every day and most are not complaining but actually praising the site.

The sad part is that someone that cant even properly build their own company marketing website (the “elsewhere on the web” section is absolutely riveting though) is pontificating on why the slightest error in the SOS site is somehow tantamount to being “untrustworthy”.

Mike Hassinger January 8, 2014 at 5:32 pm

Well, I’m not charged with corporate records or voter registration or posting election data, but I’m happy to compare the $1500 I spent on my website with what you earned building the SOS website. What did this revamp cost?

Doug Deal March 7, 2014 at 4:53 pm

Don’t forget the maintenance fees as well. That’s how they GET yuh!

Charlie January 8, 2014 at 5:33 pm

Jay, before you start calling critics “self serving”, don’t you think you should disclose that your company is responsible for building this site? I mean, if we’re going to let the readers judge on who is being self-serving, I think that’s a material omission.

Ed January 8, 2014 at 5:58 pm

glad you’ll stick up for a former client. there’s a big difference between what mike does and the sos does and the sos failed pretty hard. anyway I’m #teammike fwiw

Mark Rountree January 9, 2014 at 7:46 pm

Jay, Mike Hassinger doesn’t hold himself out to be a website creator…*you* do. Your immature attitude displayed in the post above, combined with the wacky-sounding conspiratorial statement below (that he’s “someone who clearly has a much greater agenda and wont speak to it!”) speaks volumes.

It’s unprofessional and silly.

Wouldn’t it have been intellectually honest of you to simply speak truth to what everyone already knows? “Hey, you know what? We goofed. This went live before it should have.”

I think most people can see that this has been a series of errors. If you can’t, perhaps Mike is not the blinded one.

South Fulton Guy January 8, 2014 at 5:11 pm

As ridiculous as the “new and improved” Secretary of State site’s failings are, a political science friend of mine said this is “inside baseball” stuff. The inherent low profile of the Office of Secretary of State and corresponding services shields Brian Kemp from accountability, which is why AJC, WSB and larger platforms aren’t running this story. That’s Kemp’s joker in the deck, higher profile offices are where the stakes are the highest and the consequences for bad decisions are fatal.

Just think about what else has happened on Brian Kemp’s watch and given his lackluster performance, how he’s largely received a pass on his major gaffs (loosing Archives to Regents, issues with the Corporations and Elections Systems, loss of three licensing boards to the Department of Community Health and the failed coup to take all 300 of the Governor’s Professional Licensing Board appointments) and now the “new and improved” website.

It is it unlikely that he will have a primary challenge and because there is an “R” beside his name my prediction is he will be re-elected unconditionally.

Dave Bearse January 9, 2014 at 11:03 pm

Did the overcharging of registration for some corporations including Homeowner’s Association occur on Handel’s or Kemp’s watch?

xdog January 8, 2014 at 5:31 pm

If Karen Handel were still SoS, the website would be both smaller and more efficient. Right?

South Fulton Guy January 8, 2014 at 5:38 pm


A new website by Karen Handel certainly wouldn’t look like a re-election campaign site with a big picture of her looking at you on the home page for sure.

People rapped Cathy Cox (D) for running public service commercials in the midst of her campaign but this is over the top.

Judge the before and after SOS site:

Now look at his campaign website developed by the same company Brian Kemp’s procurement team engaged to do the SOS website:

Mandy January 8, 2014 at 5:34 pm

I miss Karen. Hell, I even miss Cathy.

2g Strategies (@2gstrategies) January 8, 2014 at 5:35 pm

From @peachpundit Most Untrustworthy: Consultants, Polls Or The Secretary of State’s Website?

2g Strategies (@2gstrategies) January 8, 2014 at 5:35 pm

From @peachpundit Most Untrustworthy: Consultants, Polls Or The Secretary of State’s Website?

Jay Williams January 8, 2014 at 5:51 pm

Pleas save me the feigned outrage, Charlie. There was no omission of any facts or material information in my post. I hardly find it self-serving to ask questions of someone who clearly has a much greater agenda and wont speak to it.

The work for the SOS site was performed by our government services company and was completely in compliance with all laws and rules relating to the procurement of this project. In fact, we actually provided services BEYOND what the RFP requested because the SOS team didn’t have the budget for it but we felt it was essential in providing a world class website to serve the state of Georgia.

For whatever your purposes for ginning up a non-controversy, no one can say with a straight face that the site used under Karen Handel (and using technology that was over a decade old) was more effective, efficient and served the citizens of Georgia better than this one.

Charlie January 8, 2014 at 5:54 pm

Except those peons that actually have to use the site every day. Those people we also call voters. But no one else. Certainly not Brian’s large cadre of yes-men.

Jay Williams January 8, 2014 at 6:41 pm

The only issue that I personally am a ware of is the corporations filing, which is a 3rd party application that our firm was not involved with. This had issues prior to the new site launch (as noted in the 112/13 release) and I am not really privy to what those issues are. In fact, any of the 3rd party portals (like my voter page) were not something we were involved with. The SOS office doesn’t have an unlimited budget and focused on the small amount of things they could change and make work for Georgians.

Our task was to make the site more user friendly and to find a way to aggregate massive amounts of data and records into a more streamlined manner. The site structure and usage is based completely on user data gathered (what links they clickcd, where they went, etc.).

BASED ON THE ACTUAL DATA, we did what we were hired to do. If someone really believes the old site was more navigable, that’s fine. But the DATA doesn’t support that.

Charlie January 8, 2014 at 6:43 pm

So we’re just going to call that big assed screen shot at the top of this page “anecdote” and not “data”? I’m sorry , “DATA”?

Rick Day January 8, 2014 at 7:38 pm


Harry January 8, 2014 at 9:16 pm

We’re frequent users of the corporation database, and for us the upgrades are perhaps a marginal improvement in that pending items are better organized; however I fear it’s less user friendly for casual users. They have to jump through more hoops to begin with.

Ed January 8, 2014 at 6:01 pm

my mistake calling Kemp a former client. I liked the old one. better. I could, you know, find all the info I needed. don’t need m y government’s administrative office to have a flashy site

Romegaguy January 9, 2014 at 9:14 pm

“we actually provided services BEYOND what the RFP requested….”

So the Secretary wanted an even crappier website?

Dave Bearse January 9, 2014 at 11:10 pm

I can’t speak to the functioning of the new website, Jay, but you not mentioning you had a direct connection to website changes was a material omission. On the other hand, you used your own name.

South Fulton Guy January 8, 2014 at 6:44 pm
Caralibra January 8, 2014 at 6:52 pm

I have extensive experience using the GA SOS website for over a decade (I’m a corporate paralegal). I have never experienced problems with this office until Brian Kemp took over. The website change actually started in early 2013 with the Corporations Division. The changes to the online filing system were such a failure, Mr. Kemp was forced to extend the deadline for submitting annual registrations last April because no one was able to file them through the broken website. He also began posting expected turn-around times on the site because it was taking much longer than it ever had in the prior years (and while I can’t verify this, I suspect his office was being inundated with calls from annoyed citizens asking why their documents hadn’t been filed yet. I recall a period where the expected hold time was 45 minutes.)

The Corporations Division site improved throughout 2013 to the point where we could actually submit filings by summer. The turn-around time, however, has never improved. Under Karen Handel and Cathy Cox, the average turn around time for a corporate formation submitted online would be about 7-10 business days. Now, we’re looking at 14-21. I certainly hope Mr. Kemp is earnest in his aim of 3-5 business days.

Georgia is a remarkably business friendly state, but the current frustrations caused by the corporations division website is leaving a very bad first impression on many new business clients.

My last two cents – please remove that ridiculously large picture of Mr. Kemp from the homepage. Tone it down. Whether or not it was intended, it just screams ‘egotist’. The website is not supposed to be about Mr. Kemp, it’s about the services his office is tasked to provide. (PS – if you have an adblocker, you can block the image, which I’ve done).

Rick Day January 8, 2014 at 7:48 pm

Perhaps if enough humans flood the SOS office in the Pink Floyd building, they could find the impetus to get these issues resolved. No one wants to deal with, you know…taxpaying voters

Some are acting as if a perfectly functioning site is the keystone to Liberty. Others just have a problem with one handsome blue eyed devil’s photo of him, the seal of his office and god bless america stars n stripes.

You guys won’t hesitate to blow up Joe Scarborough, Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid’s mug and splash it all B&W and contrasty on a political ad. We live in a big head world. You created it.

OTOH, have I told you guys how much I enjoy watching Republicans eat each other?

xdog January 8, 2014 at 8:12 pm

Lot of gristle there, not much meat.

Leah Williamson (@ATLeah) January 8, 2014 at 7:54 pm

Starting to think the only jobs gov’t creates are for crappy web developers. via @PeachPundit @MikeHassinger

johnl January 8, 2014 at 8:30 pm

There have been other issues with the site, most notably the ability to determine a corporation’s registered agent for service of process. This used to be a simple matter, plug in the company’s name and the registered agent and county would pop right up. However, for the past year, you could only see who they were up to 2012, which did you no good if the corporation changed registered agents within the past year. Now with the new website, it will tell you the address of the registered agent, but NOT the county the registered agent resides in. This is a lot of fun in the metro atlanta area, where an Atlanta address doesn’t necessarily mean Fulton County, etc etc. Reminds me of the old adage, “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.” The “cure” of the new site is certainly worse than whatever perceived ailment the old site had.

greencracker January 9, 2014 at 9:01 am

I have noticed and do like that you can search by RA again.

And I am impressed that you can now download (possibly stream?) elex results in several machine-readable formats. That’s light years ahead of … well … any agency in Georgia I think and remarkably sunshine-y.

In fact, there’s so much flexible database-ery behind this site, I’m sure we can look forward to rollout of lots of new search and download options across all the divisions. I mean, I suspect the capability’s there … so … all we need now is the API.

South Fulton Guy January 8, 2014 at 8:41 pm

Here’s the video of channel 11 interviewing Kemp’s Chief of Staff/Press Secretary Jared Thomas over the latest issues with SOS websites.

Thomas says “we like the website..we think it’s working great” – He sounds like POTUS last October on the site

Jackster January 9, 2014 at 8:14 am

@Jay – Could you re-do the state ethics site while you’re at it? I’ve got a line on the RFP if you want to look at it.

BuckheadConservative January 9, 2014 at 9:01 am

Lol, you guys. Everyone knows an empty suit can’t oversee a proper web design project.

BuckheadConservative January 9, 2014 at 9:04 am

Maybe Sonny can appoint us a new website?

BuckheadConservative January 9, 2014 at 9:07 am

Kemp means business, not good government. It says it right there on the label. You all knew this.

Mrs. Adam Kornstein January 9, 2014 at 9:44 am

Just checked My Voter Page… well good news is I’m still on the rolls, bad news some how the listing of which county commission district I vote in isn’t visible.

So migrating the data from old to new..not so great and very troubling.

Also, didn’t the GA Assembly pass a bill to make online voter registration a thing? Wasn’t that two years ago? I don’t see that functionality anywhere on this site.

F. Underwood January 9, 2014 at 5:11 pm

I’m not sure what all the fuss is about. My recent interaction was fine. I just renewed my business license and it asked if I would like to round up to the nearest dollar for Mr. Kemp’s re-election efforts. I said sure. I then promptly received an email receipt confirming the transaction. I also checked my bank account to make sure it went through smoothly and sure enough it did. Before I could log off, I received another email confirming by license renewal and requesting my participation in a survey about who I would support for Governor in 2018. Of course, I gave my opinion. I then received another email saying I had been added to the campaign email list and that for $100 I could receive a signed 8×10 portrait of Mr. Kemp and an invitation for the opportunity to give $5000 at a fundraiser featuring Karl Rove at a date TBD. All of this in less than 5 minutes. So all in all, I think the new site works fine. Give the guy a break.

South Fulton Guy January 10, 2014 at 11:32 am


David Staples January 9, 2014 at 5:52 pm

I’m typically looking at various election results and running data when I’m using the SOS site. 5 clicks to pull up the clarity data from Nov 2012 seems a bit much. I’d much rather it only be 3 at most.

South Fulton Guy January 10, 2014 at 1:11 pm

“the new website for the Secretary of State’s office is an amazing improvement over the old, lackluster site.”

South Fulton Guy January 14, 2014 at 11:32 pm

Has anyone done the research to see how much we paid for this new website?

Charlie January 15, 2014 at 12:23 am

That is but one of the enlightening questions regarding this “competitive” procurement.

Mark Rountree January 15, 2014 at 10:01 pm

It’s apparently $25,000 plus maintenance deal.

Frank March 7, 2014 at 1:52 pm

When it rains it pours with Secretary of State systems, but what ever happened to the buck stops here instead of blaming an ex-employee?

A. Neil LeCage March 7, 2014 at 10:13 pm

And now the ENTIRE site is down.

Doug Deal March 8, 2014 at 8:13 am

Scarcity adds the illusion of value. Just think how grateful you’ll be when this things finally works.

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