Uganda’s electoral commission plans to meet with representatives of the country’s eight presidential candidates, political parties and stakeholders to explain its decision to use a biometric system to verify voters in the February 18 general election. This would be the first time that the electoral body employs a biometric system, which uses human body characteristics to confirm a person’s identity.
Jotham Taremwa, a spokesman for the electoral commission, says the deployment of the biometric verification mechanism at all polling stations across the country will significantly boost the credibility of the presidential, legislative and local elections. The commission has begun training its officers in how to use the system.
The electoral commission compiled the voter list to be used for the elections using the biometric system to register prospective Ugandan voters. Taremwa says it would be improper for the biometric system to be used to compile the voter list but not used for the elections. Civil society and opposition groups have urged the electoral commission to ensure there are backup machines in case there are malfunctions, as happened in some African countries during polling.
Opposition supporters have also questioned the timing of the decision to deploy the biometric verification system in this year’s polling. They said the electoral commission ignored previous demands that the system be used to ensure credible and transparent elections.
“It is part of our operational reforms as electoral commission to ensure that the principle of one man, one vote holds. And that is why we needed that machine to identify the voter and then we can check that voter in the register, but also ensure that we know somebody’s voting status,” Taremwa said.
Meanwhile, the ballot papers to be used for the elections are being printed both locally and internationally. The electoral commission says companies in Uganda, South Africa, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom are in the advanced stages of printing the sensitive documents to be used at the polls.