Dermalog addresses discrepancy in Afghanistan biometric vote totals ahead of result announcement

Categories Biometrics News  |  Elections

Biometrics were used to register more than 1.9 million votes in Afghanistan’s recent presidential election, according to a letter sent to the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) by biometric device supplier Dermalog, and reported by TOLONews. The Commission is seeking clarification of why conflicting vote totals have been reported by the system and candidates.

A letter from the IEC asked Dermalog why system data shows 1,929,000 votes while candidates can see only 1,791,000, as well as the status of the deduplication process, and the final data from each polling station, polling center, and province.

Dermalog’s letter puts the final vote tally at 1,929,333, and the company says another 137,630 are under “server quarantine.” Votes seen by candidates and under quarantine add up to 1,928,630, leaving a discrepancy of 703 votes. While an imperfect result, those votes are highly unlikely to prove statistically significant in this particular election.

The company writes that “in several cases, operators submitted results sheets early in the morning, before the end of the Election Day.” In these cases, “the biometric device for the polling station was then deactivated.”

“In order to continue with the biometric voter registration on election day in that polling station, the operators activated the backup biometric device and continued with biometric voter registration. The operators submitted the second result sheet with the biometric data to the server, but the server kept them under quarantine,” the letter states.

This seems to suggest that the discrepancy may be caused by a human process error, with potential duplicate votes successfully identified by the system. Dermalog has vowed to provide the IEC with a list of potentially fraudulent votes.

“The email is not enough. The polling stations should be identified. The Election Commission should clarify from the polling stations which backup devices were used,” said Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA) head Yusuf Rasheed, according to TOLONews.

The voting process has been criticized by the Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan (TEFA), FEFA, and others, however, TOLONews says in a separate report, because Dermalog has control of the biometric devices and data center, rather than the IEC.

“Unfortunately, Dermalog is not an electoral company to know the management of the election process, secondly, if this company takes responsibility, there is no trust and confidence in it and there are chances of fraud,” alleges TEFA head Naeem Ayoubzada. “Dermalog company has its own links with the government and also with international players.”

“The election commission does not have control of the server–we only provide them with our standards and they (Dermalog) implement those standards,” said Awrangzeb, an IEC commissioner.

Results were originally scheduled for release on October 19, but are now planned for November 14 to allow time for extra action to preserve transparency.

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