Biometric voter registration

From HandWiki

Biometric voter registration implicates using biometric technology (capturing unique physical features of an individual – fingerprinting is the most commonly used), most of the times in addition to demographics of the voter, for polling registration and/or authentication. The enrollment infrastructure allows collecting and maintaining a database of the biometric templates for all voters. A biometric voting project might include introducing biometric registration kits for enrolment of voters; using electronic voter identification devices before and on Election Day; issuing of voter identification documents (i.e. biometric voter cards), among others. The chronological stages for adopting a biometric voting registration project usually include assessment; feasibility studies; securing funding; reviewing legislation; doing pilot projects and mock registration exercises; procurement; distribution of equipment, installation, and testing; recruitment and training of staff; voter information; deployment and, post-election audits.[1][2][3]

The final aim of implementing biometric election technology is achieving de-duplication of the voting register,[4] thus preventing multiple voter registration and multiple voting; improving identification of the voter at the polling station, and mitigating the incidence of voter fraud (e.g. buy/rent of voters IDs before an election).

However, it is vital that commissions carrying out these election projects first and foremost guarantee that the legal framework supports biometric voter identification,[5][6] and then that the data captured during the registration process will be secured while maintaining two basic requirements: personalization and privacy. Likewise, it is imperative to have contingency mechanisms in place, in case biometric systems malfunction. One of the main challenges is to ensure that given the eventualities of technological hitches and failures, not a single voter is disenfranchised.[7]

Countries with biometric voter registration

According to International IDEA's ICTs in Elections Database,[8] as of 2016, the number of countries adopting biometrics in elections has steadily increased to over 50, with significant differences between regions. "While there are virtually no users in Europe, about half of the countries in Africa and Latin America use this technology in elections."[9] 35 per cent of over 130 surveyed Electoral Management Bodies is capturing biometric data (such as fingerprints or photos) as part of their voter registration process (2016).[1]

Countries which have used Biometric voting registration include Armenia,[10][11] Angola,[12][13] Bangladesh,[14][15] Bhutan,[16] Bolivia,[17][18] Brazil,[19][20] Burkina Faso,[21] Cambodia,[22][23] Cameroon,[24] Chad,[25][26] Colombia,[27][28] Comoros,[29][30] Congo (Democratic Republic of),[31][32] Costa Rica, Cote d'Ivoire,[33] Dominican Republic,[34] Fiji, Gambia,[35] Ghana,[36] Guatemala, India,[37][38] Iraq, Kenya,[39][40] Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mexico,[9][41] Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia,[42] Nepal,[43] Nicaragua, Nigeria,[44][45] Panama, Peru,[9] The Philippines,[46][47] Senegal, Sierra Leone,[48][49] Solomon Islands, Somaliland,[50] Swaziland, Tanzania,[51] Uganda,[52][53] Uruguay, Venezuela,[9] Yemen,[54] Zambia,[55] and Zimbabwe.[56][57]

Advocacy and criticism

Some promoters of biometric voting registration point out that this technology, if properly customised to the country's needs and well implemented, could offer better accessibility for citizens; help avoiding long queues and waiting times for registration and voting; add simplicity and speed to the election cycle (e.g. voter identification documents can make it easier for polling staff to verify voter details);[6] make voters and Commissions feel confident about the quality of their registry (more accurate, reliable and complete data); improve e-voting security,[58][59] considerably reduce or eliminate multiple registration and multiple voting, while mitigating the risk of impersonation, identity theft, the misuse of records of deceased voters, carousel voting and ballot-box stuffing.[44][1]

On the other hand, those who criticise and disapprove the use of biometrics for voter identification maintain that using biometrics for election purposes raises concerns over voters' privacy, human dignity and governmental disclosure of personal information.[5][60] Some critics go further to claim that biometrics in voting poses a serious threat to democracy, due to fears of violation of the secrecy of the vote (or correlation voter-vote).[61]

The concerns as with any other application of biometrics for identification and authentication can be manifold.[62][3] There is, for example, the possibility of voter disenfranchisement when characteristics typically used to identify or verify voters might become unavailable (e.g. bandaged finger, loss of a finger, failure to acquire due to dirt or fingerprint quality degradation).[1][61] Similarly, there are also claims of potential logistical and procedural "new problems" that biometric identification devices can bring to an election cycle: increasing costs (initial purchase costs of biometric readers and infrastructure, costs linked to maintenance, storage and upgrades) and resources' allocation (human, time, material); additional training of commissions and polling staff, technological failures that could disenfranchise voters; and extra data storage that demands higher security.[4][7]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Wolf, Peter (2017). "Introducing Biometric Technology in Elections". International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. 
  2. "Voter registration". Retrieved 19 February 2019. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Biometric Voter Registration: Skills required and problems encountered?". 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Holtved, Ole (February 2011). "Biometrics in Elections". International Foundation for Electoral Systems and USAID. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Biometrics: Friend or foe of privacy?". Privacy International. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Gelb, Alan; Clark, Julia (2013-02-11). "Using biometrics in development: lessons and challenges". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Biometric Voter Registration and Voter Identification". 
  8. "ICTs in Elections Database". International IDEA. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 "If the EMB uses technology to collect voter registration data, is biometric data captured and used during registration?". International IDEA. 
  10. "New Voter Authentication Devices (VADs) tested in Armenia". EC-UNDP Joint Task Force. 
  11. "Parliamentary Elections, 2 April 2017". OSCE. 
  13. "ans_738_1109121176". International IDEA. 
  14. "EC starts distributing NID cards with biometric details". Business News 24 BD. 
  15. "Bangladesh Election Commission Begins Issuance of Biometric IDs". FindBiometrics. 2016-10-03. 
  16. "ans_738_591871763". International IDEA. 
  17. "Carter Center Report on Biometric Registration in Bolivia". 
  18. "Bolivia begins updating biometric voter registry". 
  20. "In São Paulo, TSE's President presents overview of 2017–2018 Biometric Identification Program" (in pt-br). 
  21. "ans_738_1545713035". International IDEA. 
  22. "Cambodia: Commune Elections Not Free or Fair". Human Rights Watch. 2017-06-12. 
  23. Vichea, Pang (2015-11-12). "Voter e-registration test run going 'smoothly'". Phnom Penh Post. 
  24. "Biometric Voter Registration in Cameroon". 
  25. Debos, Marielle. "Biometric voting in Chad: new technology, same old political tricks". The Conversation. 
  26. "UNHCR, EU working with Chad on biometrics registration program for refugees". BiometricUpdate. 2017-01-25. 
  27. "Colombia". International IDEA. 
  28. "Registraduría Nacional del Estado Civil – Nuevas Tecnologías" (in es). Registraduria Nacional del Estado Civil. 
  29. "Programme d'appui à la modernisation du fichier électoral de l'Union des Comores" (in fr). Le PNUD en Union des Comores. 
  30. "Comoros". 
  31. "ans_738_844038563". International IDEA. 
  32. "The Democratic Republic of Congo selects Gemalto mobile biometric enrollment solution to support fair elections". 
  33. "Safran Tech Used in Two Recent Biometric Votes in Ivory Coast". FindBiometrics. 2017-02-01. 
  34. "Dominican Republic delegation is introduced to the Brazilian biometric registration system" (in pt-br). 
  35. "Gambia Electoral Commission Reports on Biometric Registration Work". FindBiometrics. 2016-01-26. 
  36. Forson, Francisca Kakra. "Ghana Electoral Commission Assures Problem-free Second Round of Special Voting". VOA. 
  37. "EC to check bogus voting, link Aadhaar with electoral rolls". 2014-11-29. 
  38. "India's Election Commission to link biometric ID with electoral rolls". BiometricUpdate. 2014-12-02. 
  39. Gogineni, Roopa. "Kenya Introduces Biometrics for Voter Registration". VOA. 
  40. "Kenya implements biometric registration for all citizens". BiometricUpdate. 2015-02-05. 
  41. "Mexico Sticks with Safran for Voter Authentication". FindBiometrics. 2016-12-21. 
  42. "Biometric machine for voter registration unveiled". Verified Voting. 2013-12-23. 
  43. "Election Commission builds biometric voter database ahead of election". Verified Voting. 2013-01-11. 
  44. 44.0 44.1 "Countries adopt biometrics for voter ID, fraud prevention – SecureIDNews". SecureIDNews. 
  45. "Nigeria's INEC Satisfied with New Voting Systems". FindBiometrics. 2015-03-12. 
  46. "Biometrics Now Mandatory For Voting In The Philippines". FindBiometrics. 2014-06-02. 
  47. Aurelio, Julie M.. "Comelec earmarks P10-M for voter registration machines". 
  48. "Biometric Election Tech Shipment Offers Reassurance in Sierra Leone". FindBiometrics. 2017-01-27. 
  49. "Sierra Leone News: 4000 Biometric registration kits arrive". Awoko. 
  50. "Daon Tech Supports Peacebuilding Work in Somaliland". FindBiometrics. 2016-01-14. 
  51. Clottey, Peter. "Tanzania Electoral Chief Promises Peaceful, Credible Election". VOA. 
  52. Clottey, Peter. "Uganda to Use Biometric Verification Machines for Elections". VOA. 
  53. "Uganda's Electoral Commission Trains Staff on Biometric Voter Identification". FindBiometrics. 2016-02-05. 
  54. "M2SYS Deploy Truevoter Yemen Biometric Voter Registration Solution – M2SYS". M2SYS. 
  55. Zulu, Delphine (2015-02-06). "Zambia: Biometric NRCs to Be Used in 2016 Elections". The Times of Zambia (Ndola). 
  56. "Zimbabwe rules out biometric voting in 2018 elections, electronic system for registration only – Techzim". Techzim. 2017-01-25. 
  57. "BVR kits procurement gathers momentum". The Herald. 
  58. "McAfee-Atlantic Council Joint Study Sees Important Role for Biometrics in e-Voting". FindBiometrics. 2014-10-08. 
  59. "Voting online made possible with selfie recognition technology". 2016-10-17. 
  60. "Biometrics Are Coming, Along With Serious Security Concerns". WIRED. 
  61. 61.0 61.1 Vanguard, The Patriotic (2011-10-02). "Analysis of Biometric Voter Registration and Voting Process in Sierra Leone". The Patriotic Vanguard. 
  62. Das, Ravindra (2016-04-21). Adopting Biometric Technology: Challenges and Solutions. CRC Press. ISBN 978-1-4987-1745-8.