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.
Biometric data of early registrants lost – Comelec (InterAksyon)
Comelec spokesman James Jimenez did not say how much data had been lost, only acknowledging it was “not a very large number.”
He said they have written and otherwise informed affected voters “to come in and provide biometrics again.”
Biometric registration is mandatory for participation in the general election next year.
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.
Biometric Voter Registration Underway In Tanzania (Anadolu Agency)
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.
No more indelible ink? (Astro Awani)
The government is prepared to consider the suggestion for the scrapping of the indelible ink and changing to the biometric system for the general election.
At the beginning of Wednesday’s sitting of Parliament, Mikov announced that the use of biometrics would put an end to the practice of voting with other MPs’ cards.
The use of biometrics was introduced in early 2010.
However, the process of collection of biometric data and their integration into the MP cards in Bulgaria’s 42nd National Assembly was delayed, […]
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).
Museveni approves thumbprint use in 2016 (Daily Monitor)
“In future, all that [multiple voting] will stop. We are importing machines for thumb printing in 2016. We shall use thumbprints to know who this is and if you try to steal, the machine will throw you out,” Mr Museveni is quoted in a State House statement [ed. Yoweri Museveni is the president of Uganda].
Mr Museveni’s announcement comes weeks after the Electoral Commission (EC) released a roadmap to guide political parties and voters ahead of the 2016 polls which did not feature the use of thumbprint machines.
The article’s commenters aren’t optimistic.
NEC Vice-Chairman Judge (retired) Hamid Mahmoud Hamid clarified that people should take note of the fact that the system will only be used for registering voters and not for voting purposes. The commission’s Head of PNVR and ICT, Dr Sisti Cariah, said NEC will collaborate with the National Identification Authority (NIDA) to reduce costs since the latter is currently doing the same in its national identification project.
Here’s a piece, slightly edited, that we posted when initially it was reported that Ghana would forego biometric voter verification. Ultimately, Ghana decided to go for biometric voter verification, and despite some imperfections and a simmering dispute among political parties, they seem to have pulled it off. The same issues apply to the Tanzania voting infrastructure.
Without biometric verification, the whole enrollment exercise turns on the ID document. A document-dependent electoral system can be successful if three conditions are met: The process whereby legitimate documents are issued is very rigorous; The document is extremely difficult to counterfeit; And there is no significant corruption of the ballot-stuffing or ballot destroying variety.
Rigor in the document creation would include such measures as a real-time biometric query against the database of registered voters before issuing a new registration card in order to prevent duplicate registrations. Making a document difficult to forge involves high tech printing techniques or embedded biometrics for later verification. The corruption part is a function of culture and institutional controls.
Avoiding over-reliance on the physical ID document is perhaps the greatest benefit of using biometrics in elections. If there is no biometric voter verification, the only voting requirement is to have a more-or-less convincing registration card with a more-or-less convincing photo on it.
Biometric verification, by making the finger rather than the paper the overriding criterion for receiving a blank ballot, confers two tremendous advantages. Multiple voting can be made extremely difficult even for people who have multiple government issued registration cards. Second, ballot stuffing can be curbed because an audit of the total number of votes recorded can be compared to the number of fingerprints verified on election day as legitimate voters.
By creating the perception that the electoral apparatus is more effective than it really is, implementing a biometric voter enrollment system without biometric voter verification could even lead to more electoral uncertainty than the system being replaced.
A well-thought-out biometric voting system can reduce fraudulent voting to very low levels but it’s also possible to spend a lot of money on a leaky system that involves biometrics without accomplishing much in the way improving the integrity of the vote.
The same sort of analysis can, and should be applied in Tanzania.
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.
Georgia may start using biometric voters lists (Democracy & Freedom Watch)
It is still unknown when this process will start, but the group assumes that it cannot be done before the next presidential election in October 2013, but possibly for the next local election in 2014.
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.