With the U.S. Election Day fast approaching, local government is getting ready for the barrage of people ready to stampede through the doors of the polling locations. But is your local polling place really ready? Voter fraud has long been a concern. In the past, some voters got away with registering under names of deceased citizens or voting more than once. Much of this could be attributed to outdated technology—or the lack of a system altogether.
A study released by Pew Center on the States earlier this year indicates approximately 24 million voter registrations in the United States are no longer valid or have inaccuracies, with two million deceased individuals listed as voters and 2.75 million listed in more than one state.
I recently had a conversation with a friend that said the last time she went to vote, they didn’t even ask for ID, but rather simply asked for her name and address, clicked the data into the system, and sent her in to vote. In today’s connected world, I would like to believe advanced biometric technology—which includes facial recognition, irises, fingerprints, and palms, among others—can be used at the polls to identify voters quickly and easily and prevent election fraud.
A camera could easily snap an image of a face, identify nodal points, and create an algorithm to identify the face—much like fingerprint algorithms identify a fingerprint. Once the image is snapped, software can measure points on the face, translate into code, and match the face in a database—instantly.
The use of biometrics in the voting process is beginning to take hold across the globe. For example, on October 7, in Venezuela, national elections were carried out with biometric voter authentication to activate the voting machine.
According to Smartmatic, the provider of the electoral technology used in Venezuela, the system was used for multiple municipal elections in Latin America. In the Brazilian election, 299 municipalities used a biometric system for voter authentication, and the Electoral High Court of Brazil hopes the biometric identification system is used nationwide for the 2018 presidential election.
In 2009, Bolivia held its first presidential election with an electoral voter list using biometric data. In fact, for individuals whose fingerprints were not clear enough to scan, facial-recognition software was used.
It is exciting to see countries using technology to minimize voter fraud. Facial recognition, in particular, is being used in a number of settings to increase security and prevent fraud including airports in Australia and DMVs in the United States, to name a few. It can also be used on digital signs to customize advertising based on gender, age, etc. As the use of biometric data in various settings has increased, the tech has been met with a bit of debate as of late.
In October, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission released a report identifying best practices for facial recognition to help protect consumers’ privacy, urging companies using the technology to consider the sensitivity of information when developing products and services. Some suggestions: digital signs with facial recognition should not be set up in places where children gather; consumers should be made aware if facial tech is being used; and social networks should provide consumers with clear notice of how the facial-recognition feature works.
As you go to vote on Tuesday, take note of how your local polling place is managing voter registration. In my opinion, biometric technology should be used to identify voters and prevent fraud. After all, in a tight presidential race, every vote counts.