Kurds vote in the September 2013 parliamentary elections. Photo: Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iraq’s independent electoral commission in Baghdad is looking to implement a new biometric system of registering voters in hopes of reducing voter fraud and expanding its democratic process in the autonomous Kurdistan Region.
Hendren Mohammed Saleh, the commissioner in charge of elections in Kurdistan, said he expected the new system to be in place for an anticipated referendum on Kurdish independence, which Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani has said should take place this year.
“We want to focus on urging people to go to the registration office and be a part of the new voting process,” Ali Kadir Obed, the general director of the Independent High Electoral Commission’s (IHEC) Erbil office, said in an interview with Rudaw on Wednesday.
“We are trying to simplify the voting procedure and offer more help to them. The new procedures are sure to be easier for the people,” Obed added, expecting it to be implemented in the very next Kurdish election. “This is for supporting them.”
To simplify the transition to the new process, IHEC is urging voters to visit registration centers as soon as possible. In order to register, voters must be present at the office and have two of the five following documents: a passport, residency card, government issued ID, ration card or voting card.
In addition to having government documents present at registration, the voters’ fingerprints will be recorded as well. Through this biometric process, citizens’ votes will be counted through fingerprint identification.
According to Obed, past elections saw cases of voter fraud, with repeated voter names or votes from people who turned out to be deceased.
“There were repetitions of many names before the biometric system,” Obed explained. “Before the system, many people were not included in the voting process and many people who were deceased were counted as voted. Now, there will be nothing like that.”
According to Obed, IHEC is currently trying to open as many registration offices as possible in order to accommodate the voters’ registration process.
“We put the number of the people who are attending the registration office and the more people who come, the more registration offices we will open,” Obed said.
IHEC’s outreach campaign for the biometric system is not limited to just previously registered voters. It is also expanding its reach to the many IDPs (internally displaced persons) who have been forced to leave their homes because of the war with the Islamic State (ISIS). The IDPs will also be able to register to vote.
“We went to visit many people urging them to come to the registration centers. Already we have 40 mobile teams visiting the offices of the IDPs to urge them to register themselves,” said Obed.
Through this new system, Obed is convinced that previous mishaps in elections will be eliminated and furthering future elections’ legitimacy.