Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Biometric authentication vs electoral fraud gains ground in Uganda

Fraud is a problem that has bedeviled election managers since the earliest times. One of the more insidious forms of electoral fraud is identity theft where a voter passes himself off as another and casts his ballots at multiple locations, effectively skewing results of the election.

Fortunately, election commissions can now tap a rapidly-developing technology called biometric authentication to combat electoral fraud.

Biometric authentication is already widely used elsewhere. Some notebook computers  are equipped with fingerprint sensors that restrict access to its rightful owners. Security-conscious facilities have also relied on fingerprint, thumbprint or iris scan biometrics to restrict comings and goings of unauthorized entities.  Airports, too, have started utilizing biometrics to heighten security.

Recently, electoral commissions have started to explore how biometric authentication can make the electoral process more transparent and credible. In Uganda, for example, President Museveni has already declared that the 2016 general election in the country will utilize thumbprint machines to identify genuine voters, eliminating the possibility of anyone stealing of votes and double-voting.

This technology will finally allow Ugandan electoral staff to move away from manually authenticating voters –an unreliable and time-consuming process  that can, at its worse, serve as enabler for fraudsters. Obviously, a digitized thumbprint, or some other form of biometric authentication, is far more difficult to forge than a analog type of identification.

In an official State House statement, Museveni said that the election commission it will “use thumbprints to authenticate voters” and warns would-be fraudsters that “if you try to steal, the machine will throw you out.”   

Although procurement details of biometric thumbprint readers are yet to be released,  the  move is already gaining wide support from both administration and opposition parties, as well as cause-oriented groups.

Many are acknowledging that  a Biometric Voters Register (BVR) is the “most credible” protection against multiple registration and multiple votes.  

Uganda hopes that this strong multi sectorial support for biometric authentication will finally pave the way for cleaner and more honest elections in the country.