Afghanistan biometric voting improved but imperfect

The people of Afghanistan have voted in Presidential elections using biometric voter authentication systems intended to prevent voter fraud and increase confidence in the process, which Reuters reports election observers said worked better than in the previous parliamentary elections, though they also contributed to long wait-times for voters.

Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) Commissioner Mawlana Mohammad Abdullah told Afghan outlet Ariana News that the commission’s national tally center received results sheets from about 4,000 polling stations with the fastest internet connections within the first 24 hours of polls closing.

The IEC had raced to train its employees on some 40,000 Dermalog-supplied biometric devices deployed to 21,000 polling stations and 4,900 polling centers.

“The technology improved a little bit, so it is not as bad as the parliamentary election,” said Naem Ayubzada, the director of Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan, a group which observed polls in all 34 provinces, according to Reuters. Aybzada said that identification took up to 10 minutes, though registration issues contributed to the delays, and some women were hesitant to use facial recognition to verify their identities.

Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission Head Shaharzad Akbar tweeted that the biometric identification process was too lengthy. Extra batteries and a backup paper process were also provided.

“If we don’t receive the result sheets online from the polling stations. The biometric devices will be brought to our provincial offices and then it will automatically send it to the main server in Kabul after an internet connection,” IEC Secretariat Chief Habib-ul-Rahman told Ariana.

IEC Head Hawa Alam Nuristani says any issues with the biometric terminals would be addressed ahead of future elections.

Voter turnout among the 9.6 million Afghans registered to vote was reported to be low. Preliminary election results will be announced on October 19, with final results released on November 7. If no candidate wins 50 percent, a run-off vote will be held between the two leading candidates.

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