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Iraq replaces outdated biometric voter cards for 2021 election

Slow roll-out of new biometric voter ID raises concerns

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The Iraqi High Electoral Commission (IHEC) announced the cancellation of voter cards issued between 2013 and 2017 in tandem with a new push to accelerate the distribution of the country’s new long-term biometric voter cards, reports NRT.

On January 2, IHEC offices initiated a new distribution push to issue new long-term biometric voter cards that will replace a series of electronic voter cards issued before the 2014 elections. The push is to last until February 2. This recent recall is the latest in a series of IHEC initiatives to update voter information and prevent voting fraud ahead of the upcoming parliamentarian elections set for early June.

Voters are urged to check their registration status on the IHEC website to determine whether or not they need to obtain the new IDs. Accordingly, voters who left or entered the security forces, no longer qualify as an internally displaced person (IDP), or have moved to a new electoral district need to update this information at their local IHEC offices. First-time voters are also encouraged to register by submitting their biometric information at IHEC offices. The registration process requires voters to submit ten fingerprints and a photo for biometric matching.

According to the IHEC, the decision to replace previous voting cards will maintain election integrity and mitigate fraud as it ensures that voters will only cast a single ballot. A similar initiative during the 2014 parliamentary elections introduced short-term biometric and non-biometric electronic voter cards to ensure secure the electoral process. However, the previous system was a hybrid that allowed citizens to choose between biometric voter cards and presenting multiple forms of ID to cast their ballot. The new long-term biometric ID process will replace the old system as it requires biometrics as the sole ID requirement.

Nevertheless, despite the benefits of a unified biometric voting requirement, the slow roll-out of the new long-term biometric ID is raising concerns that many voters will not be covered in time for the upcoming election. The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) reported in late December 2020 that 11.3 million out of 26.6 million voters have yet to receive their new voting cards. This delayed distribution and the recent expansion of Iraq’s electoral districts from 18 to 83 is feared to cause further confusion and low voter turnout with less than six months until the next election.

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