Afghanistan is poised to proceed with biometric voter verification technologies in this year’s election, but mismanagement and technical issues threaten to mar the process.
The plan had been to enhance the integrity of the presidential election through the use of fingerprint-, iris-, and face-scanning technologies, with officials delaying polling from an initial timeframe in April back to September in order to give election workers more time for training with the systems to be used, among other factors. But now, there are concerns about the biometric imaging among some of the women of Afghanistan, with respect to cultural attitudes in opposition to the idea of having a woman’s photo taken.
As Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports, part of the issue may simply be a lack of clear communication about the voter registration process. Some women are reluctant to vote under the belief that their photograph will be printed, whereas the Independent Election Commission is now insisting that biometric imaging of female voters will be conducted by female IEC workers in areas closed off to men, with images stored in a database and not printed.
The issue poses one potential threat to the integrity of this year’s presidential elections, despite the biometric technologies’ promise of a course correction after electoral fraud allegations in the 2014 presidential election.
Meanwhile, TOLOnews – Afghanistan’s first 24/7 news channel – reports that at least some of the fingerprint scanning devices to be used in this year’s elections are failing to perform what should be biometric matches. IEC has confirmed the issue, with the organization’s deputy head asserted that workers from Dermalog – the German-based supplier of the technology – had already arrived in Kabul and were working to fix the biometric scanners.
The technical problems could lead to an echo of 2018 parliamentary elections in which numerous fingerprint-scanning devices were stolen or lost on election day, while election officers trained to operate the devices failed to arrive for duty.
There is still time to fix these technical issues, of course; and the IEC is now honing its messaging about the biometric scanning process, with political misinformation being an issue that is certainly not unique to Afghanistan in 2019. The country’s presidential election is currently slated for September 28th.
August 27, 2019 – by Alex Perala