Arizona Daily Wildcat November 20, 1997
'Glich' closes down Cat Card office during referendum votingA computer "glitch" shut down the university's student identification computer system yesterday, disabling card scanners at Student Union referendum polls and campus stores and restaurants, officials said.
The Cat Card computer system crashed about 2:30 p.m. and stayed down for several hours. The system keeps track of students All Aboard and Pocket Money accounts and can be used to verify enrollment.
The system shutdown forced Associated Students poll workers to copy voters' student identification numbers off Cat Cards and student identifications by hand. Ordinarily, workers run the cards through a scanner connected to the database to verify whether a student is registered. The system also prevents students from voting more than once.
The lists needed to be checked against information from the Student Information System database after the polls closed, said Robert Sandoval, ASUA assistant elections commissioner.
Hand-written lists, however, make it impossible for election officials to make sure students voted only once, Sandoval said.
Sandoval said if a student voted at two different locations or the day before, officials would not be able to keep track of how they voted.
"You can't tell when people have voted twice which ballot it was," he said. Thus, he added, officials would not know which ballot to discard.
Sandoval said he did not anticipate much multiple voting.
"If it comes down to where it is really close then that'll be a problem. Depending on what the margin is that will tell you if you need to factor in a source of error," he added.
The system has crashed before during elections with no consequence, said Marcos Hernandez, ASUA elections commissioner.
"This has happened in previous years and it wasn't a big problem. Nobody rushes in to vote twice," Hernandez said.
He added if officials discovered that students had voted more than once, they would determine if the double had any impact on the results of the election.
"If we need to, we can figure out the number of people that voted in that time span and see if there is some fluctuation we need to scrutinize," he said.
Richard Crow, an employee of the Cat Card office, said the office shut down the system after a "glitch" was discovered. The system was turned off so it could be repaired via modem by its Ohio-based manufacturer, Diebold.
"We were getting some errant data," he explained. "It's an inconvenience but there's not a whole lot we can do."
Following the system shutdown, the Cat Card Office closed for the rest of the day.
Because of the early closing, students were left with no explanation.
A recorded message said patrons could leave questions to be answered the next day.
Crow projected the system would be back on within an hour. The system remained down into the early evening, however.
Because the Cat Card system keeps both Pocket Money and All Aboard records, student access to their accounts was limited, Crow said.
Vending machines could not be accessed by students with Cat Cards and identifications.
Despite the downed system, students were still able to purchase food with their Cat Cards and student identifications, though registers did not show their account balances.
Students were also unable to access their Pocket Money accounts.
Associated Students Bookstore cashier Angie McCormick said students accepted the inconvenience with grace.
"They usually pay cash or we hold the stuff and they come back in an hour," she said.
Molecular and cellular biology freshman Tori Matthews said he would not return for his highlighter set, however.
"I'll have to go off campus to get them because I need them today," he said.
Freshman Christopher Ingham stopped browsing for winter wear when he learned of the downed system.
"This puts a damper in my shopping day," he said.