When it comes to the concept of a free and democratic society, the election process and its legitimacy is at the base of everything. Not surprisingly, many countries are still finding themselves confronted with difficulties in registering and authenticating voters. Elections are still cause for tension in many places where demonstrations, confrontations, and violence are sadly the outcome. Over the past 10 years, in an attempt to address these complex electoral challenges, Biometric Voter Registration has increased in much of the developing world such as Africa and Latin America. In fact, approximately 50% of Countries in these two regions have adopted this technology for elections.
Biometric voter verification systems are being increasingly deployed to ensure a fair and efficient election. These systems include identification solutions for voter registration, voting, tallying and identification. For voter authentication, the prints are compared against reference fingerprints stored on an identity document or in a fingerprint database, enabling the owner to be securely authenticated as the holder of the document.
The usage of biometric systems in electoral processes makes it possible to meet challenges involved in implementing the principle of "one voter, one vote," which is a necessary condition for the holding of democratic, free and transparent elections.
In particular, it implies an obligation to guarantee the fairness of the ballot for the electoral authorities.
The elimination of multiple enrollments is demonstrated by a systematic search for duplicates (based on biometric characteristics such as fingerprints) using an Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS).
The most commonly used biometric modalities when it comes to voter registration systems are fingerprints and facial features. One of the biggest misconceptions about biometric enrolment is that systems simply have an image of your face, eye, finger, etc. which is not the case with the sophisticated systems required for voter registration. Alternatively, biometric data is originally captured as an image and then converted into a binary template to be stored in a database. When paired with other information such as name and birthdate, a reliable voter profile is constructed. Once this profile is created, it can be stored to a voter identification card to increase accuracy even further.
According to International IDEA’s ICT’s in Elections Database as of 2016, 35 percent of over 130 surveyed electoral management body’s were capturing biometrics as part of the voter registration process, mainly in Africa and Latin America. Having said this, much of this is manual verification as only 9 percent of the surveyed countries were leveraging computers to verify voter identity.