Thursday, April 26, 2012

Biometrics on Elections Day

During the last decade, the increasing need for security against terrorist activity, illegal immigration, sophisticated crimes, and financial frauds propelled the biometric technology market into unprecedented levels of growth. According to the research company Frost and Sullivan, the market earned revenues were $ 4.494 billion in 2010 and will reach $14.685 billion in 2019. At the present moment, the annual growth rate is approximately 19%.

This remarkable success has brought an expansion of biometrics applications to a wide array of industries. Electoral authorities, always interested in the newest developments in technology to increase transparency levels, are using it to improve registers. Fingerprint, iris, voice and face recognition are all human patterns that, if properly used, can contribute enormously to build more accurate registers and avoid the duplications of citizens ID's typically found in public databases.

Another use of biometrics that is making its way into the electoral scene is fingerprint identification at the polling stations on Election Day. A top-notch biometric equipment can keep track of individuals who have voted and notify authorities in real time if a person is trying to vote again with the same or another ID.

Using biometrics at the polling station during Election Day will immediately eliminate one of the oldest forms of electoral frauds, dead people voting. "Zombies" can vote when the name of a deceased person remains on a state's official list of registered voters and a living person fraudulently casts a ballot in that name. Having dead people voting is not an endemic problem of developing nations. South Carolina's Attorney General, Alan Wilson, claimed that 953 ballots were cast by "people listed as dead" in the recent Republican primary elections held in January, 2012.

Although this new use is not widespread yet, it is a promising source of income for the thriving industry of biometrics. Venezuela, a country that has embraced all advantages technology provides to guarantee transparent elections, will be using a biometric identification system on Election Day for the next Presidential elections to be held on October 7th, 2012. The Sistema de Autenticación Integral, SAI (Integral Authentication System), developed by Smartmatic, will guarantee that the person voting is the same person registered to vote.

In spite of all progress made with the dissemination of best practices in the administration of elections, guaranteeing the One Voter One Vote principle is still a challenge that many countries are yet to conquer. Hopefully biometric technology will soon be accessible to all nations procuring satisfactory levels of transparency.