Iraq Electoral Commission struggles with biometric voting card registration
Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) is struggling to keep up with biometric voter registration ahead of the autumn election, according to a new report by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).
According to the sixth report on “Iraq’s Electoral Preparations and Processes,” which was released on Tuesday, IHEC added roughly 665,000 voters to the biometric rolls between January and February.
The report comes amidst a push to issue long-term biometric voter cards aiming to replace a series of electronic voter cards issued before the 2014 elections.
The move is aimed at maintaining election integrity and mitigating fraud risks by ensuring that voters can only cast a single ballot.
In January, the IHEC realized it would not manage to biometrically register all voters, as well as candidates and political coalitions, before the original June election date, and it consequently postponed the voting to October 10.
The data shown in the new report, claims that only 15,534,518 voters were registered as of February 25, representing a mere percentage of 62 percent of all voters. The IHEC has, however, reported an increase in biometric registration of between 75,000 to 120,000 individuals per week.
According to the UNAMI report, following current rates, IHEC will likely reach only 63 percent to 64 percent biometric coverage before the original deadline, unless turnout improves further.
The trend also extended to registrations of candidates and coalitions.
In fact, according to the new report, the registrations of just five coalitions had been approved as of Tuesday, while eight applications were still in process.
“A total of 249 political parties are now accredited while 58 applications are still in process,” the document reads. “Of these, 99 political parties have indicated their intention to participate in the upcoming election.”
To ease the Commission’s struggles, Iraq’s government has extended both voters’ and candidates’ registration deadlines.
The new dates are March 31 for voters, April 17 for individual candidates, and May 1 for political coalitions.