Biometric identification of voters? Possible way forward

New Technologies in the Electoral Process

As part of the Needs Assessment analysis which explored  introducing new technologies in elections, Michael Yard, an IFES Consultant and an International Senior Election Expert,  prepared a road map. This road map aimed to assess the introduction and possible use of biometrics for voter registration/verification.

A credible voter register and/or verification of voters aim to prevent possible electoral fraud and ensure that every eligible voter can vote in an election and they can do so only once.  Reforming the voter registration systems by introducing biometric technologies aims to increase trust in the electoral process and also reduce various forms of electoral fraud, such as voter impersonation and multiple voting.

The road map for possibly introducing biometrics in North Macedonia was presented to the members of the State Election Commission.  The discussion provided more details of the pros and cons of introduction of this technology, challenges, and a possible way forward.

It is clear and generally understood that the design and implementation of such tool require close collaboration, data exchange, inputs and buy-in from a variety of electoral stakeholders such as state institutions, political parties, civil society, and voters in general.

The analysis clearly stresses the importance of allowing sufficient time, thorough preparation, planning,, allocating sufficient resources and responsibilities, and timely piloting/testin

Based on IFES’ recommendation and the finalized analysis, SEC confirmed its interest in introducing biometrics and proposed a new provision to the Electoral Code, which was reflected in the February 2020 amendments.

The amendments are new legal provisions regarding voting using voter fingerprint identification equipment. The initial goal of the road map was to assist SEC in responding to the legal requirement for providing information and an opinion about the possibility of introducing fingerprints for voter identification. However, the impact was far greater, as it turned into a legal provision in the Electoral Code. Thus, the new voter identification measures are planned to be implemented in the next elections following the parliamentary elections and will contribute to advancing the country’s electoral reform.

However, practical considerations will need to be carefully considered to ensure that the new technology is tested before being implemented in all polling stations and during countrywide elections.

By introducing new provisions to the Electoral Code, the project significantly contributed to electoral reform process improvements and thus added value to the overall efforts and goals.

It is anticipated that introducing new technologies in elections will not only improve the effectiveness of organizing elections but more importantly, it will increase the public’s confidence in the process, as well as the transparency and credibility of elections.