Nigeria’s electoral commission says it has found a means to fight fraud that has marred votes repeatedly in Africa’s most populous nation: technology. While its decision to use biometric voter-card readers in general elections starting March 28 is favored by Muhammadu Buhari’s opposition alliance, President Goodluck Jonathan’s ruling People’s Democratic Party, which has won every election in Africa’s biggest oil producer since the end of military rule in 1999, is crying foul. All of the previous elections were marred by ballot stuffing, multiple and underage voting, and falsification of figures, according to local and international monitors. About 800 people died in violence in 2011 after Buhari lost to Jonathan and said the result was rigged.
“Without card readers, anyone could use anyone else’s card,” said Yemi Adamolekun, the executive director of Enough Is Enough Nigeria, an advocacy group based in Lagos, the commercial capital. “Now, it won’t just be a random person voting because they’ve paid for your card or stolen it.”
When most Nigerians go to the polls on March 28 to elect the president and national legislature, their voter cards will be slotted into Chinese-made readers with data chips to display their names and pictures, and authenticate their fingerprints. More than 82 percent of the 68.8 million registered voters have picked up their cards, the electoral commission, which is known as INEC, said Wednesday.