The Electoral Commission has said the difficulties encountered with the biometric verification device (BVD) during the 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections were occasioned by poor handling of the equipment rather than a defect with the machines.
It said either basic instructions on how to handle the devices were not adhered to or that some officers recruited for the elections turned out to be almost computer-illiterate, or a combination of the two factors caused freezing and other challenges experienced with the devices.
It said it would consequently scrutinise prospective electoral officers more thoroughly to ensure their competence and the likelihood of their strict adherence to detail to avoid some of the challenges that attended the last public elections.
At a consultative forum on the public elections regulation, Constitutional Instrument (CI) 75, in Wa last Tuesday, the Commissioner responsible for Upper West Region, Madam Sa-Adatu Maida, said despite the difficulties, the biometric system proved far better than previous regimes as it eliminated the possibility of multiple voting.
She said failure to change batteries at the required intervals contributed to the failure of the system at most of the polling stations.
“We instructed officers to change batteries at certain intervals, but for one reason or another, they simply failed to go by the instructions, hence the various difficulties we encountered with the devices,” Madam Maida said.
The forum was organised by the Electoral Commission for identifiable civil society groups, including the Christian Council, media, teachers, students, farmers and politicians, to discuss CI 75 in relation to the next Unit Committee elections and the district level elections scheduled to be held later this year.
Madam Maida announced that the Electoral Commission (EC) would begin a voter registration exercise in June for voters who have turned 18 after the last registration, and for older eligible voters who did not register for the last elections.
She said because of the biometric system, those already captured by the system who would attempt to register again would be arrested and prosecuted since the system would detect them.
She said the biometric system would be in operation for the Unit Committee and district level elections, and insisted that the EC had made plans for back-up for every polling station to forestall the possibility of having to postpone elections as it happened during the presidential and parliamentary elections.
Assistant Director of Elections at the EC, Mr Dan Amayo, said despite the challenges encountered with the BVD, “if the introduction of the BVD is evil, then it is a necessary evil in the sense that the advantages derived from its usage far outweigh the disadvantages.
“The use of the BVDs has come to stay and we have to make it work.”