By Nathaniel Gana
6th September 2021
In its determination to eliminate the possibility of voting by identity theft using another person’s Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) during an election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has concluded plans to introduce the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS).
According to the Commission’s Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, who made the revelation today at the third quarterly meeting with political parties held in Abuja, the INEC Voter Enrolment Device (IVED) will combine the functions of both the Z-Pad and the Smart Card Reader (SCR) for BVAS, which entails the fingerprint and facial authentication on election day.
With the new method, it will be impossible for any voter to use another person’s PVC to cast his or her ballot on election day. This is because a prospective voter must successfully scale through either the fingerprint or facial authentication process before being allowed to vote. To be sure, any voter who fails the fingerprint and facial authentication process will not be allowed to vote.
The Commission unveiled the IVED on 17th March this year as a new technologically-driven innovation to, among other things, facilitate the physical registration aspect of the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR).
Explaining the background to the adoption of the IVED, Prof. Yakubu explained that various concerns being expressed by stakeholders about the voter accreditation process during elections informed the Commission’s decision.
His words: “While working on the register of voters, the Commission has also been continuously innovating on strengthening the credibility of voter accreditation and result management during elections in Nigeria. As always, the deployment of appropriate technology is crucial and desirable. The introduction of the machine-readable PVC combined and Smart Card Reader (SCR) were important innovations. So too is the uploading of polling unit results in real-time on Election Day. The reality is that technology always advances with the passage of time. Consequently, the Commission must keep pace with the ever-changing world of global information and communication technology. We are at one such crossroad at the moment.”
He continued: ‘For some time, many stakeholders, including leaders of political parties, have called on the Commission to strengthen the voter accreditation process during elections, especially with reference to the use of incident form where the SCR fails to authenticate the fingerprints of a voter. Such concern is legitimate given the fact that the SCR successfully verifies any card that belongs to the polling unit for which it is configured, irrespective of who presents it. Their apprehension, therefore, is that using the incident form to cover those whose fingerprints are not authenticated by the SCR, a voter may be able to use another person’s PVC to vote during an election.
“To address this concern, the Commission attempted to introduce the facial biometric authentication during accreditation of the voters using the Z-Pad tablet to complement the fingerprint process through the Card Reader before the Edo Governorship election in September 2020. However, the Commission was not entirely satisfied with the pilot held in the Nasarawa Central State Constituency bye-election a month earlier in August 2020. We therefore suspended the idea to enable us to do some more work. Over the last year, we reviewed the situation, and we think we have found the appropriate technology to address it. The Z-pad was, therefore, only used to upload Polling Unit results to the IReV portal during elections.
“The functionality of the Z-pad has now been integrated into the IVED currently used for voter registration. On Election Day, the same device will be used for the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) for fingerprint authentication during accreditation and where it fails for facial authentication. We believe that this multi-layer process will eliminate the possibility of voting by identity theft using another person’s PVC. Where the voter fails both the fingerprint and facial authentication, he/she will not be allowed to vote. In other words, no electronic authentication, no voting. We are convinced that the new machine is robust enough to guarantee further the credibility of voter authentication and transparent management of results during elections.”
Prof. Yakubu said the Commission would conduct a pilot exercise with the IVED in the Isoko South 1 State Assembly constituency bye-election scheduled for Saturday 11th September 2021.
“The BVAS will now perform the functions of both the SCR and Z-Pad in the bye-election. Thereafter, it will be deployed in the Anambra Governorship election in November,” he noted.