Tanzania held its first multi-party General Election in 1995 and subsequent elections in 2000, 2005 and 2010, voters registration is among thorny issues that political parties and other stakeholders have complained about. At present, official statistics availed by the National Electoral Commission (NEC) show that there are some 20 million registered voters on the Permanent National Voters Register (PNVR) in Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar out of the total population of about 45 million. Cases of missing names of eligible voters, appearance of names of people long known to be dead as well as minors on the voters’ register, are among issues that have touched raw nerves of politicians and concerned citizens of this country. There were also some incidents where voters deliberately registered more than once.
biometric voter registration
Tanzanian election officials reiterated intentions to use biometric voter registration for the 2015 elections and explained how the machines would be used, Tanzania’s Daily News reported Thursday (May 16th). The system will only be used for voter registration, not during the actual voting, National Electoral Commission (NEC) Vice-Chairman Hamid Mahmoud Hamid said. Politicians have raised concerns about the biometric system, which has encountered problems when used in other African elections, including during Kenya’s elections in March.
Everyone can sigh with relief. Georgia’s justice officials say they are not in league with the devil and have no plans to assist the Antichrist to take over the world. In a bizarre public-service announcement, Georgia’s Justice Ministry on April 20 announced that new, biometric ID cards for Georgian citizens are not a satanic creation. “The assumption that the new ID card is the seal of the Antichrist and that it contains the sign of the beast is not correct,” explained an earnest young man in a video produced by the ministry.
While the Election Commission (EC) has rubbished claims that motor oil or other substances could be used to remove the ink stain marking voters who have cast their ballots, it has already sparked off a storm of protests that the ink may not be as indelible as said. Reports of the oil-based lubricant as well as other substances such as egg yolk wash or merely scrubbing with water and soap could remove the indelible ink stain surfaced earlier today, hours after policemen and military personnel cast their ballots in advanced voting. “Impossible, I do not believe the indelible ink can be removed by any oil-based lubricant… the ink is made from silver nitrate. “When the ink is put on the fingernail, it will seep into the skin,” EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof told The Malaysian Insider when contacted. He said that even if the stain on the fingernail could be rubbed off, the stain would stay visible on the skin surrounding the nail for seven days.
It has emerged that in spite of the fact that the government provided GH¢198 million (198 billion old cedis) through budgetary allocations to the Electoral Commission (EC), for the biometric registration of voters and electronic verification for the December, 2012 elections, the Commission is reported to be owing over GH¢120 million (120 billion old cedis) in respect of the registration and the elections. According to finance ministry officials, the EC has not provided evidence on the over expenditure given the fact that the budget of the EC even included allocations for run off of the Presidential elections between the first two contestants, if no outright winner emerged. The EC is in a debt crisis following its inability to settle debts owed to suppliers of biometric equipment and election material as well as printers and EC officials, regarding the registration exercise and the December, 2012 general elections.
On March 4th Kenyans went to the polls to elect the country’s 4th president, among other officials. Most polling stations opened on time at 6 AM. Some, however, opened late due to late arrival of voting materials or the failure of the biometric voter registration (BVR) kits that were used to identify voters before they cast their ballots. It was the first time that Kenya had implemented an electronic voter register, the previous manual register having had hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of ghost voters. It was also the first election following the enactment of a new constitution in 2010, which doubled the number of elective contests in the general election. With the botched 2007 general election still fresh on everyone’s mind, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) was keen on guarding the credibility of the process. The actual voting went relatively well. Besides a night attack on the eve of the election by a separatist group in the former Coast Province, there were no major incidents. Most polling stations closed at 5 PM and those that opened late were allowed to extend voting until 10 PM.
The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has adopted the use of Electronic Biometric Voter Registration System in the country in order to address the enormous challenges the commission has been experiencing in maintaining a credible voters roll. A Biometric Voter Registration involves the use of biometric technologies with the use of computers, fingerprint scanners and digital cameras to capture the bio data of applicants. A MEC statement signed by the Chief Elections Officer, Willie Kalonga, says the adoption has been made following wide and extensive consultations with various stakeholders on voter registration solution.
The Electoral Commission (EC) says no voter was allowed to cast his/her ballot without undergoing biometric verification. It said upon being served with the further and better particulars by the petitioners on 11,916 polling stations where alleged irregularities took place, it examined and analysed its records, adding, “the analysis confirmed that, no voters were allowed to vote without verification at any polling station.” In an amended response filed at the registry of the Supreme Court on its behalf by its solicitors, Lynes, Quashie-Idun and Co., the EC denied claims that voters were allowed to vote without undergoing verification, adding that voting continued on December 8, 2012 at about 400 polling stations where slowness or malfunction of machines was recorded on voting day on December 7, 2012.
As Kenya prepares for a presidential election next Monday, it’s trying to prevent a recurrence of the last such poll, in December 2007, when more than 1,000 people were killed in postelection violence. Last time, technology helped incite that violence. This time, the hope is that technology will help prevent a similar outburst. Last time around, a text message came on Dec. 31, 2007, four days after a presidential election that many people in the Kalenjin tribe thought was rigged. The text message said that the most powerful Kalenjin figure in the government, William Ruto, was killed. This wasn’t true. But the rumor went viral, from cellphone to cellphone. “That was around in the morning, and by 5, people were moving with their properties, the houses were being torched, and you’re just seeing smoke,” says a man named Alex, who asked that his last name not be used. Alex was in Kenya’s Rift Valley, where gangs of youths with gas canisters and machetes attacked their ethnic rivals. Now Alex is part of a private research project called Umati that scours social media for potentially dangerous speech — speech like that 2007 text message, which he says wasn’t just some falsehood. It was written to incite. “It was hate speech, because whatever was being written there, on the text message, it was for people to react against certain kind of people,” he says.
The call for employment of technology in Zimbabwe for both voter registration and facilitation of the electoral process is not entirely new. Masvingo MP Tongai Matutu called for the introduction of biometrics, lodging a motion in parliament to this effect in 2010. The issue was raised again in March last year by Pishai Muchauraya who said though it had been discussed with Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa, nothing concrete had materialised. In April last year, Information Communication Technology minister Nelson Chamisa also called for the adoption of a digital biometric voters’ roll. I also brought up this issue in July last year in which I explored the basics behind biometrics technology. Most recently, calls led by Regional Integration minister Priscillah Misihairabwi-Mushonga to have online voters’ registration were rejected by the Registrar-General (RG) who contends that this does not provide adequate checks as required in Section 24 of the Electoral Act.