Biometrics do a good job at telling people apart, but they aren’t any good for determining an individual’s age independent of other reliable database information.
It was in Datu Odin Sinsuat that she first noticed the trend — teens below the voting age were in the registration centers accompanied by people claiming to be their parents and herded together by people who, when asked, confirmed to be barangay workers.
Kiram (not his real name) stood outside the classroom at the Taviran Elementary School that had been converted into a voting center. He was clutching three copies of voters registration form and waiting for his turn behind the voter registration machine — a finger scanner and web camera mounted on a computer that ran on special software.
De Villa, who was about to enter the classroom, saw Kiram and immediately asked for his age. He said he was 20 but gave the wrong birth year when pressed. A woman who immediately introduced herself as Kiram’s mother spoke up and said he was indeed 20 and was her third son.
This is the kind of story that causes the anti-biometrics crowd to say, “See I told you this stuff doesn’t prevent fraud in elections.” That’s true, as far as it goes. Nobody should be promising that biometrics prevent fraud in elections.
In the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) case, even though biometrics can’t keep individuals that are by law too young to vote off of the voter roles, the ID technology, properly applied, can prevent any person voting multiple times. That’s a good thing.
Biometric systems properly applied can drastically reduce the amount of fraud in elections. In elections, it’s important to ensure that the margin of error (including fraud) is less than the margin of victory. For example: A 1% error (or fraud) rate in one direction doesn’t translate to an electoral advantage in a 60%-40% election but a 5% illicit advantage makes all the difference in a 51%-49% election.
So, by helping to reduce fraud, biometrics can make it less likely that the margin of fraud will exceed the margin of victory in a given election.
Perfect is the enemy of Good. Return on Investment, not perfection, it the relevant metric.