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.
Before the year 2004, the exercise of registering voters was so disorganized. It was after that period that the National Electoral Commission (NEC) introduced the Permanent National Voters Register (PNVR), which was used in the General Election in 2005.
Despite the new system in which voters were issued with voting cards bearing a photo and other particulars, complaints still marred the system since it is manually operated, giving room for shortcomings. It is in realization of the above that NEC is now mulling over introduction of Biometric Voters Registration (BVR), ahead of General Election in 2015. Biometrics or biometric authentication refers to the identification of humans by their characteristics or traits.
Biometric technology can be used to store unique physical characteristics, including fingerprints and facial scans of voters in a database for identification and thus solve election-related problems that have plagued most African countries. During a recent meeting between NEC officials and representatives of 40 political parties with permanent registration, the electoral commission hinted that it would start registering voters through the biometric system to be used in the forthcoming elections in 2015.