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High failure rate for Pakistan’s biometric voting pilot


The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) recently shared the results of its first pilot program in which it experimented with using biometric fingerprint machines to verify the identities of voters, according to a report by The Express Tribune.

The poll supervisory organization found that the biometric identification machines failed to identify 54% of the voters during the NA-19 (Haripur) by-election held on August 16.

In addition to using the biometric technology on an experimental basis, the ECP also used the traditional method to ensure that the electoral process would not be disrupted.

“As per biometrics readings recorded by Nadra [National Database Regulatory Authority], the biometrically verified voters were 46% whereas not verified voters were 54%,” the ECP wrote in its report. “The reasons of not biometrically verified voters were due to non-availability of fingerprints in Nadra database, invalid CNIC [Computerised National Identity Card], blocked CNIC and callused fingers made poor quality that was not recognised by the system.”

The ECP recommended that the handful of existing pilot projects involving the use of biometrics should be continued in subsequent by-elections until they achieve a near-perfect successful rate.

The parliamentary committee on electoral reforms requested the ECP to use the biometric devices in the by-election to create a greater awareness among the general public about its use in the electoral process.

In the NA-19 by-election, ECP used 60 biometric machines at 60 polling booths in 30 selected polling stations, which was supplied by a local telecom service provider for experimental use.

The by-election saw a total of 37,924 registered voters at the polling stations and a total of 15,723 polled voters, representing a 41% voter turnout. However, the biometric machines were able to correctly identify only 46% of the thumb imprints of those 15,723 voters.

Despite the significant failure rate, the report stated that the ECP successfully achieved the pilot’s main objective of analyzing the overall performance of the processes and procedures implemented throughout the test run of biometric voting machines.

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