First Time in Pakistan: ECP Holds Election with Biometric Verification of Voters

biometricElection Commission of Pakistan, in collaboration with NADRA and cellular operators, successfully conducted the country’s first ever election in NA 19 for a constituency in Haripur district through biometric verification of voters.

With biometric re-verification of voters, individuals were allowed to cast their votes only after biometric verification to ensure that a voter was indeed a legit person to cast a vote at a specific polling station.

NADRA is said to be the body that was responsible for all the arrangements and back-end technical facilities for the biometric verification of voters.

NADRA said that this biometric verification process for voters in an election was a pilot project, where 30 polling stations with some 30,000 registered voters out of 794 total polling stations in the constituency were equipped with biometric verification system.

It said that the whole purpose for this pilot test was to test the abilities, efficiency, capacity, outcome and viability of biometric verification system. Depending on the outcome, this biometric verification of voters could be deployed in next general elections.

Technical details:

As we saw the biometric re-verification of SIMs across Pakistan, the entire voter verification process took around 10 secs to complete. NADRA, as one may assume, was providing backend bio-metric verification services using GSM operators, where voters had to provide their thumb impression on biometric devices (deployed by cellular companies).

If a thumb impression was verified against a CNIC, the voter was allowed to cast his/her vote.

NADRA said that it currently has the capacity of verifying 3.5 million persons in a day or (or approximately 150,000 per hour or almost 42 verifications per second). It said that this capacity can be increased to any scale as its just matter of adding more servers and bandwidth to the system.

Election Commission of Pakistan along with telecommunication partner provided the front-end services which includes hardware such as biometric readers and telecommunication network (3G) for transmitting the data.

Is Biometric Verification of Voters a Solution?

We all are aware about rigging allegations against 2013 general election. So if you are wondering whether biometric verification of voters will eliminate rigging, then unfortunately that’s not the case.

Biometric re-verification of voters will only help the polling station staff in determining the legitimacy of a voter. Which will eliminate half of the chances for rigging, however, if polling station staff is involved and motivated to allow unverified voters to cast a vote, or even worse if they allow multiple votes from a single person than biometric re-verifiction can’t do a thing.

We will have to see how the biometric verification of voter system is perceived and even if its viable for large scale, country wide deployment or not.