February 8, 2016
Uganda’s Electoral Commission has partnered with Smartmatic, an electronic voting technology company, in an attempt to combat election fraud during the country’s upcoming General Elections next week.
The move, which is expected to result in a streamlined voting process during the General Elections starting February 18, comes as Ugandans at home and abroad call for voter registry updates amid growing concerns about possible vote manipulation and voter intimidation during the election.
The last General Elections, which took place in 2011, was fraught with election fraud allegations, and voter intimidation that left the country divisive with violent protests, riots.
This time around the Uganda Electoral Commission is working to avoid the same distress by making voting more transparent and easier at the polls on Election Day using customized and unified automated electronic systems developed by Smartmatic that will store and manage the biographic and biometrics information of all registered voters, and guarantees the correct information is available in each polling station.
Focusing on making voting easier and transparent, the new system-which will be synchronized with Uganda’s National ID database- will allow authorities to monitor and stay in control of the voting process, and respond quickly to incidents when they occur.
The system will check registered voter’s fingerprint against the National ID database before they cast a ballot. Once authenticated, they can vote. This will deter identity-related election fraud and will provide the correct voting location to a voter that shows up at the wrong polling station.
The biometrics voter system, a small handheld device that has a camera for fingerprinting, uses barcode technology and online GSM connectivity to verify a registered voter’s fingerprint against the national ID database for authentication. Once authenticated, voter can cast their ballot.
The Electoral commission said this will help deter identity-related election fraud.
Thousands of registered voters are expected to cast their ballot to choose among three presidential candidates: incumbent President Yoweri Museveni, Dr. Kizza Besigye– leader of Forum for Democratic Change and former Prime Minister and the former Secretary of the ruling National Resistance Movement, John Patrick Amama Mbabazi, who is an independent presidential candidate.
Resistance against President Museveni running for a fifth-term in office has remained unceasing for months now among citizens, especially among the youth, due to lack of employment, a deficient socioeconomic system, and deteriorating infrastructures. Many people said they feel left out of the economy.
Sam Rwakoojo, Uganda Electoral Commission Secretary, is hoping that by updating the voter registry using the Smartmatic system to verify and validate voter’s identity, the country can avoid the election pitfalls that too often result in violence as a result of election fraud, “voter identity management is a critical task in any election. by validating the identity of each voter via biometrics with accuracy and speed, we will ensure the principle of one voter-one vote in Uganda,” he said.
Around 30,500 biometrics devices are expected be deployed across polling stations.
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