A municipal electoral district in Bhutan is testing out biometric voter authentication for an upcoming election. So far officials in the Samdrup Jongkhar dzongkhag administrative district have registered the fingerprints of 247 voters.
It’s a move primarily aimed at reducing hassle for voters and ensuring that elections proceed more smoothly. Voters normally need to present special voter cards in order to cast their ballots, but those are effectively going to be replaced for individuals who have registered their biometric data ahead of the election. While the 247 registered individuals represent a relatively small proportion of the 739 eligible voters in the dzongkhag, officials did put in a serious effort to register voters by going door-to-door; unfortunately, most of Samdrup Jongkhar’s residents aren’t actually members of the administrative district for which the election is being held.
Still, officials expect to see more voters sign up for biometric polling going forward. Their efforts echo those currently underway on a much larger scale in the Philippines, whose Commission on Elections, or Comelec, has undertaken a strenuous effort to ensure that citizens register their biometric data ahead of next year’s national election. Of course, in that case biometric authentication is a requirement for voting, whereas Samdrup Jongkhar seems to be exploring biometric polling on an experimental basis, and will still allow voters to present their ID cards for authentication if they wish.
October 1, 2015 – by Alex Perala