Kyrgyzstan: Fingerprint parliamentary elections

Kyrgyzstan: Nation Awaits Results as Hi-Tech Election Sets New Standard for Region (Eurasianet)

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.

Philippines: Electoral commission deletes some quantity of valid biometric voter registrations

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.

Challenges abound in Nigeria’s biometric election

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.

US: New Mexico legislator proposes biometrics for voter ID

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.

Biometric voter verification in Brazil

Biometric voting machine to be used by 21.6 million Brazilians (Agência Brasil)

Over 20 million voters—15% of the population to take part in the 2014 elections—are estimated to cast their ballot by means of a voting machine with biometric identification, announced the Superior Electoral Court (“TSE”) on Wednesday (Aug 20). The technology can be found in 762 municipalities, among which 15 state capitals. The machines use the electors’ fingerprints to recognize their identity.

Uganda President: Biometric voter verification for 2016

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.

 

Uganda

The article’s commenters aren’t optimistic.

Tanzania: Biometric voter registration without biometric verification at the polls

Tanzania: BVR Is for Voter Registration, Not Voting, Says NEC (All Africa)

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.

 

Tanzania

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.

Originally posted May 15, 2012:

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.

Malawi opts for 2019 rather than 2014 for biometric elections

Malawi wont use biometric voter registration for 2014 polls-official (Star Africa)

“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.

Kenya botches biometric election

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.

Impressive voter registration numbers in the Philippines

The 52 million voters registered to vote in the upcoming Philippine elections is impressive because the previous peak voter enrollment of 51 million, was trimmed by four million after delisitng ineligible voters and the net 5 million additional voter registrations have been biometrically vetted for uniqueness.

Registered voters hit 52 million (ABS-CBN News)

For the country’s first automated polls in 2010, 50,653,828 voters registered.

“It’s not a net gain of one million, rather about five million because the (almost) 51 million in 2010 went down to 47 million after delisting. Now it went up again (to 52 million),” he said.

For the 2013 polls, the Comelec resumed the continuing registration of voters and validation of registration records for more than a year until last October.

During this period, the poll body also removed from their list voters who registered more than once by cross-matching their biometrics data using the Automated Fingerprint Identification System.

This resulted in the delisting of around five million voters, Jimenez said.

I can’t find anything that indicates the the Philippines are planning biometric voter verification at the polls, though.

Praise for Ghana’s recent elections

We Should Learn From Ghana Experience (PM News)

“Having been based in Ghana as the Nigeria High Commissioner for four years, going back for the last election was an added value to my trip, in the sense that I can confidently say that their last election where I was an observer, was an improvement on what transpired during the previous presidential and parliamentary election in Ghana.

The introduction of the biometric data-based machine actually assisted in terms of verifying and authenticating the voters and orderliness despite the huge turn out. The orderliness demonstrated by Ghanians was highly commendable.”

If I recall correctly (and unlike the recent Ghanaian elections), the last Nigerian elections featured biometric registration but not biometric voter verification. That recollection is supported here, where a Nigerian official expresses hope for 100% biometric voter authentication by 2015, and later in the interview.

More at the link.

The point of biometric voter verification

Isn’t that the point?

“Some voters could not exercise their franchise because the verification device rejected them even though they were in possession of their voter’s ID card and their names were in the register.” (Peace FM)

How about…?

Some prospective voters could not exercise the franchise because the verification device rejected them even though they were in possession of a voter’s ID card and their names were in the register. 

…which is precisely the point of biometric voter verification. Entities that have adopted biometric verification have implicitly stated that the card and the name are not sufficient to prove identity. Cards are forged. The names of the dead remain on the registry. Ghost voters (who don’t have fingerprints) are invented. Those things really happen.

On the other hand it is possible, even likely, that some number of people legitimately entitled to vote, and duly registered were prevented from casting a ballot by misapplication of the hardware, a database error or a bad ID transaction due to a damaged finger or dirty sensor, but the article doesn’t produce any examples.

Nevertheless, the electoral commission would be well served to seek out individuals who claim to fit the description quoted above in order to audit the process. Did they register? Is their template in the database? Did it make it on to the proper verification terminal for the appropriate polling place? Etc.

So far, the article’s five comments are unanimous. Verification should stay

All in: Second round of Fiji biometric voter enrollment closes

Fiji 

Fiji’s Voter Registration Breaks Half a Million (Press Release – PR Newswire)

Fiji has marked another significant milestone in its path to true parliamentary democracy with the announcement that more than half a million Fijians have registered to vote in the scheduled elections in 2014. The 504,588 registered Fijian voters represent more than 80% of the estimated number of eligible voters, and registration will continue in 2013, notably for Fijians living overseas.

Registration will now close while the Elections Office processes the new registrations and cleanses the list of fraudulent or duplicate entries. After the first round of registration, 30 trained clerks scrutinised the voter list and removed 1,441 problematic entries. “The easy and quick identification of these problematic entries is proof that the Electronic Registration System does exactly what it is meant to do,” the Attorney-General said.

Back in September, we noted that “close to half a million” (488,734) Fijians had registered in the biometric voter ID system. That figure represented about 80% of the eligible population, so it’s not surprising that enrollment is leveling off. There aren’t that many people left to enroll.

The voter ID will also be valid for access to a range of other government services. (Fiji Times)

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