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National

September 10, 2017

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Biometric verification still not reliable in elections

Biometric verification still not reliable in elections

ISLAMABAD: The much-talked about bio-metric verification system is still not being considered practicable, workable and reliable as the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is just testing it only at a limited scale in a few polling stations in the by-poll to NA-120 Lahore constituency on trial basis.

It is being applied to just 39 polling stations whereas the constituency has a total of 220 such voting places for this high profile seat for which polling will be held on September 17.

The exercise will cover only a small fraction of voters, 57,266 while the constituency has a total of 319,826 electorate. Some 24,000 voters were added to the electoral roll for this seat after the 2013 general elections, according to the ECP.

The ECP is unable to do bio-metric verification of at least 40,000 voters of NA-120. The system lacks the technical capacity, backup and equipment to bear the brunt of verification of voters in the nationwide general elections because of polling for the national and provincial seats on one day each.

When there will be a huge rush of verifications, the system, how elaborate and comprehensive it may be, will be incapacitated to cater to hundreds of thousands authentications at the same time.

However, the electoral reforms passed by the National Assembly, which are currently being examined by the Senate, do realize the lack of capacity and other grave technical issues in introducing the bio-metric system.

Therefore, the package provided that failure of a voter to prove his identity through the new technology will not disentitle him to cast his vote if he is otherwise entitled to do so.

Section 84 says where a voter presents himself at the polling station to vote, the Presiding Officer (PO) will issue a ballot paper to him after satisfying himself about his identity and will, for that purpose, require him to produce his original National Identity Card (NIC) issued by the National Database and Registration Authority. For the purpose of verification of his identity, the ECP may adopt such other technology as in its opinion may prove effective, including bio-metric verification system, in addition to the NIC.

Before a ballot paper is issued to a voter his number and name as entered in the electoral roll will be called out; the entry relating to him on the roll will be struck off to indicate that a ballot paper has been issued to him; he will be required to receive a personal mark, made with indelible ink, on any finger or thumb of either hand as indicated by the ECP; the ballot paper will be stamped on its back with the official mark and signed by the PO; the PO will record on the counterfoil of the ballot paper the number of the voter on the electoral roll, the number of his NIC, stamp it with the official mark, sign it and obtain on it his thumb impression; and the PO will obtain his thumb impression on the space provided on the roll for the purpose against the photograph of the voter.

A ballot paper will not be issued to a person who fails or refuses to produce his original NIC; refuses to put his thumb impression on the counterfoil or, as the case may be, on the space provided for the purpose on the electoral roll against his photograph or whose thumb bears traces of its having already been used for putting an impression; or refuses to receive the personal mark with indelible ink; or who already bears such a mark or traces of such a mark.

If a contesting candidate or his election agent or polling agent alleges that a voter whom a ballot paper is about to be issued already has one or more ballot papers in his possession, the PO may require the voter to satisfy him that he does not have any other ballot in his possession and may also take such measures as he thinks fit to ensure that such voter does not insert more than one ballot paper in the ballot box.

On receiving the ballot paper, the voter will forthwith proceed to the place reserved for marking the ballot; put the prescribed mark on the ballot at any place within the space containing the name and symbol of the contesting candidate for whom he wishes to vote; and after he has so marked the ballot paper, fold and insert it in the ballot box.

The voter will vote without undue delay and will leave the polling station immediately after he has inserted his ballot paper in the ballot box. Where a voter is blind or is otherwise so incapacitated that he cannot vote without the assistance of his companion, the PO will allow him such assistance and thereupon such voter may, with such assistance, do anything which a voter is required or permitted to do.

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