Kyrgyzstan has gone hi-tech in its efforts to ensure as clean an election as possible.
Voters received their ballot papers only after undergoing an electronic fingerprint check. As the information was processed, the voter’s image popped up on a monitor. The screen flashed red when any irregularity was registered.
Atambayev said clean and honest elections were indispensable.
“We cannot have it so that one party or one family rules the country. It is important that we protect genuine democracy and that we have a strong civil society,” he said.
There were sporadic reports of technical difficulties with the electronic system, which was being used for the first time.
While limiting opportunities for ballot-rigging, the painstaking voting procedures did also slow things down and large lines were observed across the country throughout the day.
Dirty hands: Why biometric voting fails in Africa – and it doesn’t matter in the end (Mail & Guardian Africa)
There’s so much going on in the article that I couldn’t settle on a key paragraph to set it up. Long-time readers will find some of the details familiar, especially the parts dealing with Kenya and Ghana.
Smart Card Readers: INEC’s excuse (Vanguard)
The spokesperson, who admitted this was not the only flaw identified in the new electoral process deployed during the election, said the Commission had taken note of the challenges and would effect corrections in subsequent elections to ensure that the exercise was more credible and acceptable.
While the article deals with the technical challenges of the biometric technology, and the mixed response to those, Nigeria confronts other challenges that make proper elections difficult regardless of the technology used for casting votes.
Thumbs Up? New Mexico to Study Biometrics to ID Voters (University of Minnesota)
Senate Minority Whip William Payne introduced a proposal this week that calls for the state’s top elections officials to study the feasibility of bringing biometrics into the mix. That could mean anything from retinal scans to the thumbprint-imaging technology used to access smartphones.
After hearing the same debate year after year, the Albuquerque Republican said he wanted to find a way to take some of the “venom” out of the argument that requiring photo identification would lead to voter suppression.
I don’t like to see so much made of retina biometrics but because this is big enough news, I’m linking it anyway.
India: EC to check bogus voting, link Aadhaar with electoral rolls (Hindustan Times)
“We keep getting complaints of bogus and duplicate votes. One of the best ways to ensure that a person votes only once in the country is to link electoral rolls with Aadhaar numbers. It will be a very tedious and time-consuming exercise and we can start it only when elections are over,” Delhi’s chief electoral officer Vijay Dev said.
“We will organise special camps for people to first enrol for Aadhaar and then for the electoral rolls, especially in areas where the enrolment for both Aadhaar and voter card is extremely low. We will tie up with the district administration for this,” Dev said.
Former chief minister and Aam Aadmi Party national convenor Arvind Kejriwal had complained to the CEO that fake votes were allegedly being cast in different constituencies. The electoral office also stumbled upon some names in the electoral rolls, pointing towards a bigger racket.
Computer science professor aids Somaliland’s election (Notre Dame & St. Mary’s Observer)
“Someone in Somaliland sent me an e-mail asking me to help with improving their voting register,” Bowyer said. “They said they wanted to use iris-recognition technology and asked us for help.”
Iris register to eyedentify voting fraud in Somaliland (New Scientist)
THE eyes have it. Somaliland’s election commission is trialling an iris-based biometric system that it hopes will put an end to duplicate registrations. This would make it one of the most advanced voter registration systems on the planet.
In May 1991, northern clans declared an independent Republic of Somaliland that now includes the administrative regions of Awdal, Woqooyi Galbeed, Togdheer, Sanaag, and Sool. Although not recognized by any government, this entity has maintained a stable existence and continues efforts to establish a constitutional democracy, including holding municipal, parliamentary, and presidential elections.
Biometric registration can’t solve election problems – EC (Ghana News Agency)
Dr Afari-Gyan said from the experience in Ghana, the introduction of the biometric machine in the voting process of elections was not the absolute answer to all election problems.
“The machines are not always the full answers to our problem, because they cannot distinguish between fingerprints of a minor and an adult, or a foreigner and an indigene,” Dr Afari-Gyan said.
Rather,he called for supervision and monitoring of the entire election process as well as training of people who operated the biometric machines to ensure that all eligible voters were identified and allowed to vote accordingly.
It’s true. A technological system designed to account for people can never free itself entirely from the “human element.”
…and I don’t think you’d want it to.
The Chairman of the Electoral Commission (EC), Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan on Thursday May 30, 2013, told the Supreme Court in the election petition trial that there were close to 80, 000 voters who were designated as ‘Face-Only’ (FO) voters because the biometric registration machines failed to capture their finger prints during the registration exercise.
Explaining himself further in Court on Thursday, at the start of his evidence-in-chief for the second respondent, Dr. Afari Gyan said among those classified as FO voters were eligible voters who had suffered “permanent trauma” and “temporary trauma”.
He explained permanent trauma to mean voters who had no fingers at all for which reason their fingerprints could not have been captured by the biometric verification machine.
Temporary trauma sufferers, according to Dr. Afari-Gyan, were those who had fingers alright, but nonetheless did not have fingerprints to have been captured by the machine.
He said those two categories of voters were captured in the register as people who could only be identified by their faces before voting since their fingerprints could not be captured by the biometric verification equipment.
Any identification system has to plan for exceptions. This is true whether the ID measure in place is a metal key, an ID card, a PIN, a fingerprint or any combination of ID technologies.
A Ghana Web article on exception planning published in early 2012 is here, so the subject of unverifiable biometrics isn’t a surprise.
Instead, let’s deal with the numbers.
According to the article quoted above 80,000 (and that seems to be an upper bound rather than a firm total) voters were given blank ballots without fingerprint ID verification. Some portion of that number would have been definitively established during the voter registration process as people missing hands and fingers as they completed the voter registration process.
The image below (also from Ghana Web) shows candidates, percentage of votes received, and. more importantly for our purposes, raw vote total:
The combined number of votes in parentheses below each candidate’s name comes to 10,995,262. Eighty thousand votes represents 0.73% of the almost eleven million votes cast. The margin of victory between the top two vote-getters was 325,863 votes and they were separated by 2.96% of the total vote.
As far as elections go, having the margin of error less than the margin of victory is a good thing. In this case 0.73% < 2.96% means that the 80,000 unverified votes could not have affected who received the most votes.
Moreover, no one yet asserts that votes cast without fingerprint biometric verification could have favored any one candidate either because there was a systematic attempt to circumvent the biometric verification for fraudulent purposes or because of a geographic disparity in the 80,000 (maximum) exceptions that might have favored one candidate over another.
The bigger story appears to be:
99.27% of the votes in the recent election were cast by biometrically verified legitimate voters.
The last time there was a presidential election, that number was zero and given increased familiarity with the technology and expected improvements in both biometric hardware and software, expect that 99.27% number to increase for the next election.
Ghana, and other countries contemplating fully biometric elections should be heartened by these results.
The Likely Contemptible Ways of Votes Stealing (Ghana Web)
This article looks at how election “stealers” can suppress or steal votes in a myriad of ways. The contemptible ways may encompass purging and/or caging voter lists, as well as spoiling, ejecting, blocking, rejecting, “computerization”,” tossing, and stuffing ballots(over voting).
Tanzania Seeks New Voting Gear (All Africa) — The Tanzanian government is seeking financial support to buy a new biometric system (BVR) for voter registration in preparation for the 2015 General Elections.
The development industry is as fashion-prone as any other. Fads come and go. There are a few giveaways when it comes to spotting them. Deceptive simplicity is one indication. The idea should have a silver-bullet quality, promising to cut through complexity to the nub of a problem. Even better, it should be a notion that can be rolled out across not just a country, but a region.
Covering the Kenyan elections, which climaxed with the inauguration last week of Uhuru Kenyatta as the country’s fourth president, I suddenly realised I was watching a fad hitting its stride: the techno-election as democratic panacea. We’ll see it again in Mali’s elections this summer.
There is a lot to recommend this article, but I’d caution the author to take things one case at a time rather than encourage a bounce from one extreme — techno-election as democratic panacea — to the opposite: it’s all a scam. Of course, neither is true.
As we’ve so often said: biometric systems are extremely effective tools in the hands of capable managers. They can’t do anything, including run clean elections, all by themselves. ID management is about people, after all.
Africa: Tanzania to go digital for 2015 elections (Daily Nation)
“We have resolved that the implementation of the biometric system be used in the 2019 elections,” he [MEC Chief Elections Officer Willie Kalonga] said.
Kalonga said the commission will conduct a comprehensive field tests and civic education programmes on the solution.
Countries that haven’t rushed the process have done a better job implementing biometrics into election ID.
The consensus view seems to be that Kenya really dropped the ball on integrating biometrics into its voter ID process. The few following examples should provide sufficient illustration, especially the item from the Turkish Weekly where a member of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission acknowledges the failure of the biometric system.
Then the biometric identification kits started to crash. (NPR)
“Then we have to look at why our biometric voter identification system did not work…” (Turkish Weekly)
“The Biometric Voter Registration also failed.” (All Africa)
A partially dissenting view is here: Kenya polls: A Ugandan eye-witness’ account.
Who could have seen that coming? Well, anyone who paid attention to the procurement process, that’s who.
For review see:
JULY 17, 2012 – Kenya: Procurement for Biometric Voter System Gets Messy
AUGUST 9, 2012 – Strange Things Afoot in Kenya Biometric Voter Registration Procurement
AUGUST 31, 2012 – Kenya Biometric Election Registration Update
It became clear last summer that little would be allowed to stand in the way of spending large sums of money: not laws governing the timing of voter registration and elections; not stated procurement processes; not offers of free equipment; and not the technical and organizational inability to execute on election day.
The bad news is it looks like that ordinary Kenyans, who deserve better, didn’t get much for the money borrowed from Canada. Inevitably, some will use the occasion to discredit biometric voter ID in elections in general. That would be unfortunate, too.
The good news is that, at least so far, there has been no replay of the violence that took place following the last Kenyan national elections in 2007. We hope that continues to be true.
Biometrics now in force to cleanse voters’ list (Manila Standard Today)
Voters who fail to submit for validation on or before the last day of filing of application for registration for purposes of the May 2016 elections shall be deactivated.
“It is the policy of the state to establish a clean, complete, permanent and updated list of voters through the adoption of biometric technology,” the new law read.
Mandatory Biometric Voter Registration Introduced in Philippines (Future Gov Asia)
The new law prohibits the use of the database of voter information for “any purpose other than for electoral exercises”, and requires the Comelec to keep the database secure.
Of course, we’ll await news of any plans for biometric voter verification.
Grenadians elect a new government tomorrow (Caribbean 360)
Grenada (CIA World Factbook)
The elections will be monitored by observer teams from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Commonwealth and the Organization of American States (OAS).
The OAS has also been providing technical support to validate and verify the integrity of the new voter registration system.
At the end of a two week mission the OAS submitted a Report which concluded that “the introduction of biometric identification cards and an electronic voter database constitute significant improvements in voter security, relative to the processes that were previously in place.”
Sierra Leone and Ghana: Setting a New Template for African Elections? (Think Africa Press) Though “mature” Ghana and “fragile” Sierra Leone are rarely compared in terms of their democracies, their elections followed notably similar trends. One of these trends was biometric voter registration. Ghana took it a step further with biometric voter verification.
Biometric voters list with 10.9 million voters ready (The Himalayan Times)
The Election Commission has developed a biometric voters’ list with 10.9 million eligible voters, who have so far registered at the Commission along with finger print and a photograph.