The Doña Ana County Clerk’s Office is implementing new security measures designed to protect the sensitive information belonging to registered voters.
The changes come at the recommendation of a bipartisan panel Clerk Lynn Ellins created after several employees of the office were arrested in June. Those employees were charged in an alleged binational scam to cash fraudulently obtained federal tax refund checks using names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth taken from the county’s voter file.
Among the changes Ellins announced today in a news release:
- Employees may only work outside of regular office hours if a member of the leadership team in the Clerk’s Office is present to monitor their activities.
- Paper records containing sensitive information will be under lock and key at all times they are not needed for specific and pre-approved work-related reasons. Only selected members of the leadership team will have access to the keys.
In addition, Ellins said the state vendor responsible for the Voter Registration Electronic Management System has provided an option to mask Social Security numbers from screens showing search results.
“We believe the steps we’ve taken establish Doña Ana County as a leader in the state in terms of providing the most protection possible for keeping identities safe going forward,” Ellins said.
“We will continue to work with the prosecutors to ensure that the former employees who betrayed the public trust are held accountable,” he said. “The new steps are a giant step toward ensuring that nothing like this ever occurs in this office again.”
Ellins said he also is implementing an annual training program related to ethics, safe practices and keeping the public trust.
“We have modeled our training going forward on both the hospital and banking industries,” Ellins said. “Each employee will undergo the training — and each year, each employee will sign an acknowledgment of the laws and ethical principles that apply to this office as a condition of employment.”
Ellins said he is working with the Doña Ana County Information Technology Department to upgrade video surveillance and workplace-monitoring systems, and a new camera will be positioned to monitor access to the voter-registration documents that are kept on file.
Ellins said he is hopeful other clerks’ offices across the state will adopt similar models.
He thanked the members of the task force who helped come up with the recommendations to improve security — Russell Allen, Paul Deason, Gwendolyn Hanson, John Hummer and John Muñoz.
“They have produced a detailed report that we will reference frequently as we move forward,” Ellins said. “We’ll also share the document with other New Mexico county clerks and the Secretary of State’s Office to continue the conversation about vulnerabilities that still need to be evaluated at a broader level than just our office.”