Liberia: Biometric Voter Roll, A Good Thing, but Preparations Must Be Done Diligently

LAST WEEK, the National Elections Commission (NEC) announced the completion of a tender evaluation and submission to the Public Procurement Concession Commission for approval of contract for biometric registration for the 2023 elections

THIS PROGRESSIVE thought on the part of the NEC is commendable but premature to be executive for the 2023 elections.

BIOMETRIC VOTER registration implicates using biometric technology (capturing unique physical features of an individual – fingerprinting is the most commonly used), most of the time in addition to demographics of the voter, for polling registration and/or authentication.

FPA HAS learned that no personnel of the NEC currently have prior requisite experience and technical skills in biometric registration. Additionally, the composition of the evaluation committee to make a determination on the technical proposal submitted by prospective vendors lack the technical skills and experience for such a task.

STARTING THIS new process just a year before the general and presidential elections brings to memory the several issues raised with the 2017’s Final Registration Roll, in which after the election, the NEC was mandated by the Supreme Court to ensure a full clean of the Final Registration Roll (FRR).

THE IRREGULARITIES identified in the FRR (missing voter details, wrong polling places, etc) were a result of procurement decisions that occurred many months earlier, FrontPageAfrica gathered.

FOR THAT ELECTION, the government failed to provide the funding within ample, therefore, the procurement for voter registration began late and as a result of the strict timeline to vendors for delivery of registration materials, companies with requisite experience and capacity did not tender due to limited time line. Hence, the OMR forms procured for registration were faulty and did not meet the required specifications.

THIS, FRONTPAGEAFRICA gathered, led to a messy FRR with missing voter details.

Given the complexity of BVR, and the time, effort, and money needed to maintain Biometric Voter Roll (BVR), many electoral agencies struggle to implement BVR on their own. They often require external partners, or private companies, that can assist in effecting the new process seamlessly. Such partners can provide greater capacity, as well as expertise, to the on-the-ground technicalities of biometric voter registration.

HOWEVER, this often raises new concerns for citizens. Namely, the protection of voter data when trusted with a private vendor. Many rightfully want to know what will happen with the personal information and biometric data they provide. Thus, while still cooperating with the contracted partner, the electoral agency must consider how best to protect public interest, as well as gain support from citizens.

IN THIS WAY, even with external partners to ease the BVR process, standing agencies like the NEC would still be responsible to oversee it. Otherwise, if aspects of the partnership appear or are neglected, for instance, if data is not stored or secured properly, the public may lose faith in the process as a whole. It is important to protect the same voter trust that BVR aims to strengthen.

THIS IS WHY it is highly imperative that the National Elections Commission begin the BVR on a pilot note, get it tested until results are fully satisfied before applying it to any elections in Liberia lest to the 2023 general and presidential elections. APPLYING AN untested system like the Biometric Voter Roll to a major election like the 2023 elections could be a recipe for chaos. We will therefore call on the NEC to reconsider the application of the BVR to the 2023 general and presidential elections given that 12 months is too less time for the application of such, especially for a first-time country like Liberia.

LAST WEEK, the National Elections Commission (NEC) announced the completion of a tender evaluation and submission to the Public Procurement Concession Commission for approval of contract for biometric registration for the 2023 elections

THIS PROGRESSIVE thought on the part of the NEC is commendable but premature to be executive for the 2023 elections.

BIOMETRIC VOTER registration implicates using biometric technology (capturing unique physical features of an individual – fingerprinting is the most commonly used), most of the time in addition to demographics of the voter, for polling registration and/or authentication.

FPA HAS learned that no personnel of the NEC currently have prior requisite experience and technical skills in biometric registration. Additionally, the composition of the evaluation committee to make a determination on the technical proposal submitted by prospective vendors lack the technical skills and experience for such a task.

STARTING THIS new process just a year before the general and presidential elections brings to memory the several issues raised with the 2017’s Final Registration Roll, in which after the election, the NEC was mandated by the Supreme Court to ensure a full clean of the Final Registration Roll (FRR).

THE IRREGULARITIES identified in the FRR (missing voter details, wrong polling places, etc) were a result of procurement decisions that occurred many months earlier, FrontPageAfrica gathered.

FOR THAT ELECTION, the government failed to provide the funding within ample, therefore, the procurement for voter registration began late and as a result of the strict timeline to vendors for delivery of registration materials, companies with requisite experience and capacity did not tender due to limited time line. Hence, the OMR forms procured for registration were faulty and did not meet the required specifications.

THIS, FRONTPAGEAFRICA gathered, led to a messy FRR with missing voter details.

Given the complexity of BVR, and the time, effort, and money needed to maintain Biometric Voter Roll (BVR), many electoral agencies struggle to implement BVR on their own. They often require external partners, or private companies, that can assist in effecting the new process seamlessly. Such partners can provide greater capacity, as well as expertise, to the on-the-ground technicalities of biometric voter registration.

HOWEVER, this often raises new concerns for citizens. Namely, the protection of voter data when trusted with a private vendor. Many rightfully want to know what will happen with the personal information and biometric data they provide. Thus, while still cooperating with the contracted partner, the electoral agency must consider how best to protect public interest, as well as gain support from citizens.

IN THIS WAY, even with external partners to ease the BVR process, standing agencies like the NEC would still be responsible to oversee it. Otherwise, if aspects of the partnership appear or are neglected, for instance, if data is not stored or secured properly, the public may lose faith in the process as a whole. It is important to protect the same voter trust that BVR aims to strengthen.

THIS IS WHY it is highly imperative that the National Elections Commission begin the BVR on a pilot note, get it tested until results are fully satisfied before applying it to any elections in Liberia lest to the 2023 general and presidential elections. APPLYING AN untested system like the Biometric Voter Roll to a major election like the 2023 elections could be a recipe for chaos. We will therefore call on the NEC to reconsider the application of the BVR to the 2023 general and presidential elections given that 12 months is too less time for the application of such, especially for a first-time country like Liberia.

LAST WEEK, the National Elections Commission (NEC) announced the completion of a tender evaluation and submission to the Public Procurement Concession Commission for approval of contract for biometric registration for the 2023 elections

THIS PROGRESSIVE thought on the part of the NEC is commendable but premature to be executive for the 2023 elections.

BIOMETRIC VOTER registration implicates using biometric technology (capturing unique physical features of an individual – fingerprinting is the most commonly used), most of the time in addition to demographics of the voter, for polling registration and/or authentication.

FPA HAS learned that no personnel of the NEC currently have prior requisite experience and technical skills in biometric registration. Additionally, the composition of the evaluation committee to make a determination on the technical proposal submitted by prospective vendors lack the technical skills and experience for such a task.

STARTING THIS new process just a year before the general and presidential elections brings to memory the several issues raised with the 2017’s Final Registration Roll, in which after the election, the NEC was mandated by the Supreme Court to ensure a full clean of the Final Registration Roll (FRR).

THE IRREGULARITIES identified in the FRR (missing voter details, wrong polling places, etc) were a result of procurement decisions that occurred many months earlier, FrontPageAfrica gathered.

FOR THAT ELECTION, the government failed to provide the funding within ample, therefore, the procurement for voter registration began late and as a result of the strict timeline to vendors for delivery of registration materials, companies with requisite experience and capacity did not tender due to limited time line. Hence, the OMR forms procured for registration were faulty and did not meet the required specifications.

THIS, FRONTPAGEAFRICA gathered, led to a messy FRR with missing voter details.

Given the complexity of BVR, and the time, effort, and money needed to maintain Biometric Voter Roll (BVR), many electoral agencies struggle to implement BVR on their own. They often require external partners, or private companies, that can assist in effecting the new process seamlessly. Such partners can provide greater capacity, as well as expertise, to the on-the-ground technicalities of biometric voter registration.

HOWEVER, this often raises new concerns for citizens. Namely, the protection of voter data when trusted with a private vendor. Many rightfully want to know what will happen with the personal information and biometric data they provide. Thus, while still cooperating with the contracted partner, the electoral agency must consider how best to protect public interest, as well as gain support from citizens.

IN THIS WAY, even with external partners to ease the BVR process, standing agencies like the NEC would still be responsible to oversee it. Otherwise, if aspects of the partnership appear or are neglected, for instance, if data is not stored or secured properly, the public may lose faith in the process as a whole. It is important to protect the same voter trust that BVR aims to strengthen.

THIS IS WHY it is highly imperative that the National Elections Commission begin the BVR on a pilot note, get it tested until results are fully satisfied before applying it to any elections in Liberia lest to the 2023 general and presidential elections. APPLYING AN untested system like the Biometric Voter Roll to a major election like the 2023 elections could be a recipe for chaos. We will therefore call on the NEC to reconsider the application of the BVR to the 2023 general and presidential elections given that 12 months is too less time for the application of such, especially for a first-time country like Liberia.

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