Leonard Martinez, El Paso Times – April 28, 2002 – UTEP’s Student Government Association runoff election results have been thrown out, and police are investigating what Dean of Students William Schafer described as “the electronic equivalent of ballot stuffing.”
From the preliminary investigation, it appears that student identification numbers – in most cases Social Security numbers – and birth dates were used to fraudulently cast ballots via the University of Texas at El Paso’s Goldmine Web site, UTEP spokeswoman Christian Clarke Casarez said Social Security numbers and birth dates could also be used in myriad other illegal ways. According to the federal government’s www.consumer.gov/ idtheft Web site, Social Security numbers, birth dates and names are the key information in illegally opening credit card accounts, establishing cell phone service and opening bank accounts and writing bad checks.
Clarke Casarez said she could not comment on whether the FBI would be brought into the investigation.
UTEP students use the Goldmine Web site for various functions including checking transcripts, signing up for courses and, in this case, voting electronically. Since Goldmine’s inception in 1999, it has had a standard sign-on and default set-up. Students would use their student ID numbers, which in most cases are Social Security numbers; their PINs to log in would be their birth dates until they changed the PINs
Apparently the ID numbers and birth dates that were used to cast the fraudulent ballots in the April 23-24 election were those of students who had never changed their PINs, Clarke Casarez said.
“The university’s information technology team had detected irregularities during the runoff,” Clarke Casarez said. “Also, we got reports that some students could not vote because the system would not let them vote because it said they already had.”
The irregular voting patterns were tracked to four off-campus computers. UTEP’s computer security system was not compromised, Clarke Casarez said.
Monday a new runoff date could be chosen.
In the student government elections earlier this spring, 2,063 votes were cast. The results of the runoff were not released because they were invalidated, Clarke Casarez said.
Friday night, UTEP’s computer system automatically disabled the log-on ability for any users who had not reset their PIN codes.