Zambian elections go digital


The Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) has gone digital, following the acquisition of 1,000 digital registration kits, worth $5 million, through the United Nations Development Programme.

The kits, also known as people authentication registration kits, will make registration of voters quicker and easier, says ECZ chairperson justice Florence Mumba.
“The commission hopes to maintain a permanent, up-to-date and accurate register of voters,” she explains.

Mumba adds that regular updates of the voters' register during the year would build on the existing 2005 register. The commission will implement continuous voter registration through periodic mobile registration campaigns, equipped with digital mobile registration kits that will be deployed in each of the 72 districts in the country.

The main requirements for maintaining a permanent register are registration of new voters, removal of deceased voters and amendments to the existing voter details. Other supporting activities include periodic publication of the provisional register for public verification.

Continuous voter registration will also allow the commission to replace voters' cards of those who may have lost or destroyed their cards, or are in possession of a defaced card. It also allows officials to change the details of those that have changed addresses or transferred to new polling districts.

The demonstration of the voter registration system showed that, once a person identified him or herself at the registration centre, by producing a green national registration card, a voter registration officer would then capture a digital photo and personal data, including the fingerprint and signature, which is stored on the system. The voter's card is printed and sealed by the officer and given to the person.

“It takes about five minutes to capture data and present an eligible voter with the voter's card,” notes Brown Kasaro, ECZ deputy director of IT. The commission has eliminated the former process of scanning still pictures and also the data entry process of entering information into the computer after capturing it from the registration fields.

The digitalised information will be loaded on to a biometrics database, as it has proved to be more accurate and less prone to manipulation than the current practice of verification through some form of identification documents.

Since the 2006 elections, the ECZ has been using fingerprint and iris scans as part of its biometric solutions. The traditional methods of using an identity document to verify the identity of a voter could in the past not catch up with people who had two registration cards, and they could use both to vote.

The Automated Fingerprint Identification System has stored over four million scanned fingerprints of registered voters in Zambia. The equipment was purchased from Waymark Infotech, in South Africa, in 2006.