While many nations are rapidly incorporating biometrics into voting technologies, US Congress, states, and local jurisdictions are not actively supporting new biometric voting technology despite concerns of voting machine cyber tampering in the 2016 US general election.
One major concern is privacy, of course. Could votes be personally identifiable? How secure would voter information be against hacks and breaches? Security for biometric voting systems is already being field tested in many countries around the world. We benefit from all that experience. Some testing is going on in the US. For example, a mobile biometric blockchain voting application is being tested for members of the Armed Forces overseas.
In the US, cost, standards, and the time and work required to affect such a sweeping change are formidable obstacles. Aside from the cost of equipment and data storage, maintenance of the equipment, and timely tech support are important concerns. The time and cost to train election staff also needs to be factored in.
In a recent analysis of current voting equipment, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the predominant type is optical/digital scanners (63%), followed by direct recording equipment (32%), with about 1% hand counted paper ballots. Based on survey responses from election jurisdictions, about 28% of the population voted with newer equipment that was first used 2012 to 2016. Most, about the half the population, voted with equipment first used between 2002 and 2006.
Due to the age of our voting equipment, much of it will need replacing soon. The GAO identified four key factors that states and jurisdictions consider when deciding whether to replace voting equipment:
- The need to meet federal, state and local voting system standards and regulations
- The cost to acquire new equipment and the available funding
- The ability to maintain equipment, and support from vendors
- The overall performance and features of the voting equipment
Elsewhere in the world, according to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), as of 2016 more than 50 countries adopted biometrics in elections, varying widely by region. In Europe, biometrics systems were not used in elections. In Africa and Latin America, about half the countries used biometric technology in elections. IDEA also found that 35% of over 130 surveyed Electoral Management Bodies collected biometric data, such as fingerprints or photos, as part of the voter registration process.
If implemented well, biometric voting technologies have been shown to provide many benefits: alleviating long lines; less time required to register and vote; streamlining and speeding the election cycle; improving confidence about the accuracy and reliability of registry roles; improving e-voting security; reducing multiple registrations and voting; and mitigating impersonation, identity theft, and exploitation of the identities of deceased voters.
Congress, states don’t seem inclined to incorporate biometrics in new voting technologies
Anthony Kimery, Apr. 16, 2018, for BiometricUpdate.com
Practical solutions for fingerprint collection and processing.