Electoral fraud is a difficulty all democratic nations face. Processing the decisions of entire populations leaves room for deception and inaccuracy. Several African nations – such as Kenya, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – have combated voting errors with electronic, biometric voting. The latest nation to hop on the bandwagon was Ghana in December of 2012. The change was rewarded.
Voters are now required to register with standard biometric information: fingerprints and photographs. Before casting their ballot, they wait for finger scans and facial recognition systems to verify their identity. These are preformed on miniature Biometric Voting Machines, called BMVs.
The Ghanaian government, which has a reputation for stability in a struggling region, made accessibility a priority. During election season, 26,000 polling stations were operated.
Non-verified citizens were prevented from voting, so the stations and BMVs took technological precautions: the machines were run on AA batteries, a power source that could be easily replaced and rechargeable backups were sent out, and in areas with unreliable power sources, the backups were charged on government-procured generators.
There were errors that needed working out. Late distribution of BVMs postponed the opening of some polling booths. Malfunctions caused further delays. Some Ghanaians waited for hours, leaving the queue and returning the next morning before they could vote. Even more problematic, the systems were disconnected at first; there was no central database on which to store information. This would have made it possible for a voter to register at two different centers, then vote multiple times.
Still, the voting was carried out and widely considered effective: international observers called it credible. Voter turnout came in at 80.1 percent. BVM implementation has given many Ghanaians peace of mind. Since the pursuit of the program was transparency, the investment could be considered a success.
Splash technology is now leasing the voting system to pubic and private Ghanaian organizations. Anyone who wishes to conduct quick and transparent election, they say, should have the power to do so.
– Olivia Kostreva