Can Biometric Voter Registrationdeduplication and public scrutiny enhance voters’ roll integrity in Liberia and elsewhere? Best Practices from the field.

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The integrity of the voters’ roll is crucial for the proper functioning of democratic elections. Biometric voter registration (BVR), deduplication, error checking, and public scrutiny are practices that enhance voters’ roll integrity and strengthen the entire election process. In preparation for the October 2023 elections, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) of Liberia is for the first-time making use of BVR technology during voter registration, using it to capture unique biometric data (photograph of the face and fingerprint) for each potential voter. This nationwide voter registration exercise took place in two phases between March and May 2023.

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Enhanced security measures ensure a credible voters’ roll

With the biometric data of nearly 2,5 million registrants, NEC conducted a comprehensive deduplication process, using advanced algorithms to identify and remove instances of multiple registrations and suspected underage registrants to ensure that each voter is registered only once. To identify duplicate registrations, facial recognition software, fingerprint comparisons and names, birth dates, and other particulars were compared against all other applicants, providing the NEC with a list of potential duplicates and underage voters to be manually checked by its staff.

❖ The 2023 elections have brought a shift from use of
the paper-based Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) technology to Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) technology.
❖ BVR was conducted in 2 phases: 6 counties from 20 Mar – 9 Apr 2023
o 9 counties from 21 Apr – 11 May 2023
❖ 2,080 Voting precincts registered a total of
2,498,904 persons.
❖ 49,67% of the registered persons were women.
❖ 12,399 Persons living with disabilities registered to
vote in the October 2023 election.
❖ The NEC identified 27,192 potential duplicate and
529 potential underage registrations during the
cleaning of the voters’ roll

EISA observed this process at the NEC Data Centre (Biometric Central Management System) responsible for administering the data synchronization, deduplication, and adjudication exercise. EISA noted critical steps such as the identification and classification of duplicate entries, suspected underage registrants, and the verification that registered voters meet eligibility requirements, such as age and citizenship. 

NEC’s application of these procedures is in line with international best practice when using biometric data to verify and clean the voters’ roll, strengthening the credibility and transparency of this crucial document for the October 2023 polls. 

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The EISA team watched as the system works to prevent multiple registrations by the same individual and reduces the risk of voter fraud. Using both automated and manual voters’ roll cleaning, NEC has enhanced the confidence Liberians can have in the credibility of the roll. From this process, the NEC recorded 2,488,904 registrants from
the BVR exercise from which 27,192 were flagged as duplicates and 529 as suspected underage across all the 15 counties.

Additional security: the Excluded Duplicates List

EISA noted that NEC carried out public awareness about the importance of accurate voter registration and encouraged citizens to participate in the process to help identify and rectify errors. The NEC exhibited all registered voters at the registration centers between 12 – 17 June 2023. This enabled voters to confirm that their registration details were accurate or make claims for omitted data such as name, age, sex, photo to be included, unclear photo on the roll, and object to the inclusion of ineligible persons on the Provisional Registration Roll (PRR). The NEC is expected to publish the Final Registration Roll (FRR) on 1 July 2023.

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Does this process help in enhancing voters’ roll integrity?

Yes, looking at good practices from the continent. BVR, deduplication, error checking, and public scrutiny are increasingly being adopted by African election bodies to clean the roll. In Ghana, the BVR system implemented in 2012 improved the accuracy and integrity of the voters’ roll by eliminating duplicates and ghost voters. In Kenya, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has since 2013 implemented robust deduplication and error-checking mechanisms during voter registration exercises. In South Africa, the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) has implemented a comprehensive voters’ roll management system, including regular cleaning and updating processes. The IEC matches its database against the civil registry on births and deaths to remove deceased voters from the roll. While this is Liberia’s first time using the system, adopting BVR can allow voters to feel confident that their voters’ roll has been cleaned according to good international practice. Opening the PRR to public scrutiny also satisfies the ECOWAS protocol on Good Governance which calls for the voters’ roll to be prepared in a transparent and reliable manner through collaboration with political parties and voters.

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About USAID Support to EISA-IEOM to Liberia: The USAID-funded EISA International Election Observation Mission (EISA-IEOM) Activity seeks to enhance the integrity of the 2023 Liberia Presidential and Legislative elections through the deployment of an independent international election observer mission (EOM) to monitor, assess and report on all phases of the electoral process in accordance with international and regional benchmarks. The IEOM is implemented in close coordination with the financial support of USAID/Liberia and will complement the efforts of other electoral stakeholders.