Biometric voter ID projects advance in Liberia and Nigeria, urged in Guyana
Liberia’s National Elections Commission (NEC) says pen has finally been put to paper on a contract for the supply of biometric voter registration equipment ahead of the country’s general election later this year. For its part, Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says it has received the final shipment of Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) devices to be used for general elections next month. In other election-related news, Guyana’s opposition coalition has vowed it will continue the push to see biometrics introduced in the country’s electoral system, while India’s Election Commission is yet to begin linking the Aadhaar number of potential voters to their voter ID despite having collected nearly 600 million of those numbers from registered voters.
Liberia seals voter ID deal with Laxton Group
The Chairperson of Liberia’s NEC Davidetta Browne Lansanah said during a press conference just before Christmas that the contract for biometric voter equipment is now done and dusted and the voter registration exercise is expected to begin on 20 March, reports local media The Analyst News.
This announcement formally puts an end to a lingering string of controversies regarding the bidding process of the contract.
According to Lansanah, the voter registration exercise will unfold in two phases, the first of which will run for a period of three weeks — from 20 March to 9 April in six counties including Montserrado, Margibi, Grand Bassa, Bomi, Grand Cape Mount, and Gbarpolu.
The second phase, she said, will begin on 21 April and end on 11 May 2023. The counties concerned here are River Cess, Sinoe, Grand Kru, Maryland, River Gee, Grand Gedeh, Nimba, Bong, and Lofa, per the publication.
With regard to funding needed for the voter registration exercise, Lansanah told reporters that the sum of US$10 million has already been disbursed by the government, while a balance of $8.3 million remains to be completed by the Ministry of Finance, Development and Planning.
Meanwhile, as Liberia looks forward to the start of the voter registration drive, Laxton Group which is supplying equipment for the exercise has reportedly suggested that laptops, rather than tablets, be used for the voter enrollment process.
Daily Observer reports that the proposal was made by officials of the company during a meeting with NEC in early December. Tablets are specified in the bidding document, the report indicates.
However, Laxton argues that the use of tablets as proposed by NEC is likely to create serious operational problems on the field, but laptops will be more durable and can easily be repaired if necessary.
“Additionally, more records can be captured using the laptop as compared to the tablet. Laxton will be working on a very tight schedule and has advised that a laptop be used if the Commission should achieve its objectives. The group is definitive about what is possible,” reads a portion of the statement attributed to Laxton by Daily Observer.
Nigeria receives all BVAS equipment
The last shipment of BVAS equipment ordered by Nigeria for upcoming general elections has arrived in the capital just weeks before the polls.
National newspaper Leadership quotes the chairman of Information and Voter Education Committee of the INEC Festus Okoye as saying the equipment were received on 3 January at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja by top INEC officials.
“To facilitate the smooth delivery of the machines, the Commission created four airport hubs in Abuja, Kano, Lagos, and Port Harcourt. Over the last four months, several flights delivered the BVAS to the designated airports for movement to States of the federation ahead of the elections,” reads part of a statement issued by Okoye cited by Leadership.
“With the arrival of the last flight in Abuja, the Commission has now taken delivery of the required number of the BVAS for all the polling units in the country and extra machines in line with our contingency provisions for all critical election materials,” he assured.
Guyana opposition to maintain push for biometrics in elections
In Guyana, the leader of the country’s opposition coalition Aubrey Norton says they will continue their campaign for electoral reforms including the introduction of biometrics for voter identification at polling stations.
Norton said in his end-of-year address on December 31 that the coalition will continue to engage the diplomatic community and other bilateral and multilateral partners in order to sustain momentum for their reform push, according to Demerara Waves.
“The Opposition’s focus will remain directed at ensuring biometrics at the place of poll and a clean voters list to guarantee elections which are free and fair and can win the trust of all Guyanese,” the politician was quoted as saying.
India yet to links Aadhaars to voter IDs
In the meantime, The Indian Express reports that the process to link the Aadhaar number to the voter ID in India is yet to start despite the Election Commission having collected more than 540 million Aadhaar numbers from registered voters.
The move to link the Aadhaar number to voter IDs in India was announced in August 2022, and is not mandatory.