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Bangladesh to allow some leeway in case of biometric match failure

Bangladesh to allow some leeway in case of biometric match failure

The Election Commission (EC) in Bangladesh has said it will allow up to 1 percent of voters in each polling booth to cast votes through electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the upcoming by-election if their fingerprints do not match biometric data stored in the EC server.

The move was reported by The Daily Star, which says the EC has already drafted a proposal for including a provision to enact the changes above in the Representation of the People Order (RPO).

“If the fingerprints of a voter, in spite of being correctly identified in the monitor of the EVM’s control unit, do not match with biometrics data and on account of that he cannot cast his vote, the Presiding Officer or the Assistant Presiding Officer […] shall allow him to cast [a] vote by opening the ballot unit by using his [election official’s] fingerprints,” reads the proposal.

“But such number of voters to be so allowed shall not exceed 1 percent of the total number of voters in the said EVM.”

If passed, the proposed RPO amendment will give the practice a legal basis.

The news comes amid allegations that election officials sometimes allowed up to 25 percent of voters in individual polling booths to cast votes in cases of failures to match biometrics. This is despite EVMs being often considered not particularly secure because they may be subject to tampering.

Commenting on the proposal, the EC said that although fingerprint biometrics can get damaged because of ageing, accidents or certain types of work, officers should still follow strict measures to ensure fairness.

“If the fingerprints of any voter don’t match with [biometrics] data, the presiding officer or assistant presiding officer can open the digital ballot unit [of EVM] for that person,” Election Commissioner Ahsan Habib Khan tells The Daily Star.

More broadly, the EC recently decided to use EVMs in up to 150 parliamentary seats in the next general election despite significant opposition by several political parties who said they had no confidence in the voting machine.

“The commission wants to ensure there is no misuse of this power,” Habib Khan says. “It is discussing how this can be done. No final decision has been made yet.”

Brazil is also planning a limited integrity test of biometric voting machines in its upcoming elections.

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