Malawi has always relied on paper registration for voters, but electoral authorities say that hasn’t worked so well. “We used to have a lot of problems in the past” with the passports and driver’s licenses used for registration “because photographs may fall off” or names may get misspelled, said Yahya Mmadi, a member of the Malawi Electoral Commission. But the southeast African country’s recently unveiled biometric system, being put in place before the 2019 general elections, “will be 100 percent correct,” he said. It relies on unique markers such as fingerprints.
The new system has another advantage, according to Mmadi: It is faster, so people will spend less time on registration than when passports and driver’s licenses had to be verified and checked.
The commission wants to see the national ID card — which uses biometric data and is issued by the National Registration Bureau (NRB) — as the only acceptable document for voter registration.
There’s one problem: Only about 9 million of 16 million Malawians have registered for the national ID card.