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Political Parties, Election Observers Speak Out On Biometric Voter Verification Machines

The political parties whose candidates are contesting for various positions in the forthcoming elections and the elections observers have expressed mixed reactions over the Biometric Voter Verification (BVV) machines unveiled by the Electoral Commission to identify and verify voters on polling day.

The Electoral Commission officials led by Chairman Justice Simon Byabakama on Saturday unveiled the BVV machines to the media and representatives of candidates at a demonstration event held at Hotel Africana in Kampala.

The BVV machines, Byabakama said will help to curb elections fraud such as multiple voting.

“In order to improve accuracy, security, efficiency and credibility in the delivery of electoral services, the Electoral Commission has embarked on deliberate actions to integrate technology in its operations and systems. Accordingly, in preparation for the general elections, 2021, the Electoral Commission has acquired Biometric Voter Verification (BVV) machines which will be used to identify voters who present themselves at polling stations on polling day,” said Byabakama.

He added that the BVV system is aimed at improving management and conduct of elections through authentication of voter identity and uses fingerprints to match the voter details which will help the presiding officer to confirm the identity of the voter as being the one in the voters’ register of that particular polling station.

The BVV machines will enable the Commission to ensure that only registered persons vote and that such voters do not vote more than once for the same election.

However, the representative of the Alliance for National Transformation (ANT) Dan Mugarura criticized the Electoral Commission for unveiling the machines a few days to polling day.

He said the Commission should have brought the machines earlier so that agents are trained how the system works.

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“Technology is okay, technology is the way to go. But we need time to get used to the new technologies to understand how they operate, how they may fail to operate and what to do in case there is failure,” he said.

“This technology should have been unveiled to us a month or two before so that we also get time to ascertain to our people, to our agents; to our voters country-over that this machine’s intention is positive, is to help identify voters quickly so that it helps the primary document which is the voters’ register,” Mugarura added.

The ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party’s head of communication, Emmanuel Dombo said the BVV system will deliver “qualitative improvement” in the way elections are conducted.

“It is the NRM Government which provided money to ensure that technology is improved. So, this qualitative improvement is because of NRM Adminstration and the concept of improving the quality of elections which was the basis for President Museveni to go to the bush to fight bad elections. So, when this happens to improve the process, we definitely support it and highly recommend it.”

Asked to comment about other players’ concerns such as Dennis Wabwire, a representative of independent presidential candidate Joseph Kabuleta who expressed dissatisfaction with the BVV system, Dombo said some candidates may use the machines as an excuse to their “loss.”

“For them that is their right and I cannot prevent anybody from having his or her opinion. Others may be saying that to lay ground to justify their loss. That they have lost because technology has been bad. Others may be saying so out of ignorance about how the machines work. But we shall test the machines at the time of elections to see whether they work or they don’t. I don’t want to be unfair to criticize anybody before the machines have been put to practice,” Dombo said.

Senior election observer Crispin Kaheru urged the Electoral Commission to move away from BVV machines and apply facial recognition technology.

In the future, Kaheru said the Electoral Commission should make an investment in facial recognition technology so that when voters get to their respective polling stations, their faces are used as their identity, adding that the world is moving very fast.

“The world has moved beyond the Biometric technology for identification purposes. It is moving towards facial recognition technology and I would urge the Electoral Commission to start exploring possibilities of integrating facial recognition technology for purposes of identifying voters at polling stations,” he said.

Kaheru expressed concern that BVV machines could be time inefficient as it happened in the 2016 general election.

This, he added will result into long queues at polling stations that could facilitate further spread of COVID-19 pandemic.

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