I should think there is a technical and legal difference between duplication and multiple registration in a voter registration database. The former in my opinion is caused by the application error which is technical and the other is fraudulent which is legal and criminal. Of course, multiple registration will create duplicated registration but a duplicated registration does not mean there has been multiple registration.
What is the Electoral Commission (EC) trying to do? In both cases the EC has questions to answer.
From my understanding of the basic benefit of biometric databases as a verification tool, multiple registration should not have occurred in the registration exercise unless the Electoral Commission (EC) was working offline and not online and real time. To work offline then defeats the whole process of investing in this new technology by the EC as a preventive tool if we intended to protect the integrity of the voters register. To work online means we should be dealing with application error only in the de-duplication exercise. Since I am not too sure what the EC has in mind, I will deal with what in my opinion we should expect to be done in both scenarios to give us the needed confidence in the integrity of the EC system.
DUPLICATION ERROR BY EC APPLICATION SOFTWARE
It is very possible for the application software by the EC to create duplicate data. This may be due to many reasons including the system freezing during processing and user recapturing thinking it has not been saved. This is very technical and it happens in data capture but the audit trail or system log should be able to explain exactly that this was the case. Indeed, this should have been detected on the final end of day report that was printed at the various registration centers. Once there were no duplicated names on the print outs then there cannot be the issue of duplicated names. So in my opinion, duplicate names should be ruled out leaving duplicated biometrics which I will deal with under multiple registration.
Again, if the registration in the various parts of the country was done offline and have to be merged or migrated into one database base, an application error can create duplications. This is also technical and can be internally resolved by the EC. The question is why was it done offline? if we wanted the full benefit of a biometric database as a fraud preventive tool by way of verification. Was it cost cutting? Is that we did not have the resources to do the new register as it should have been done? Was the infrastructure not robust enough?
DUPLICATION BY MULTIPLE REGISTRATION
The questions we should ask the EC is, what was the purpose of using biometrics for the data capture? We were even told our facials was being captured. I thought that was to also prevent same person using different names? What happened? Did we use the benefits of using biometrics to improve the integrity of our voters register just to get parliamentary approval for funds and then just to do otherwise? Did we include in the estimates online, real time data capture? If we did what happened? If we did not, then how did the EC intend to prevent multiple registration? In a non-biometric database, it is easy for an individual to register in Takoradi and move to Kumasi to register as well. To prevent this the technology to be used is biometrics. We need to ask the EC if we achieved this? If we did not, then why this huge investment in technology? What was the purpose of investing in the data center? What is the purpose of a data center if the biometric data capture was going to be distributed and not online, real time and centrally stored to avoid duplication by way of multiple registration? I thought the EC intended to prevent multiple registration by this huge investment. What happened? What is this de-duplication about?
WAY FORWARD IN THE DE-DUPLICATION EXERCISE
Having technically ruled out duplication of names in a particular registration center which should have been detected by the end of day print out, I guess the de-duplication exercise will be done with respect to detecting multiple biometric registration which should not have happened in the first place. In any case, it will be done so what should stakeholders expect to be done by the EC?
For the political parties I recommend they insist on the following:
A print out or copy of the biodata of the matched duplicated biometrics of the data subject before the de-duplication.
After the de-duplication, make sure both the de-duplicated database and the valid registration tally with the total voters registered at the registration centers.
For the voters affected by the exercise I recommend they insist on their collective Constitutional Right to vote before December 07, 2020 as follows:
The right to be heard in the name of natural justice since it may bother on criminal offence.
The right to challenge the duplication since it could be a technical error by the EC application.
The right to get them re-instated if their names have been expunged from the voters register without satisfactory explanation or just cause.
The right to legal aid to pursue their objection in court if they feel the EC is exercising its discretionary powers arbitrary, capriciously or biased by resentment, prejudice and without due process.
For the EC I recommend the following:
Get those who they claim have done multiple registration prosecuted before the court and not just expunge their names.
The claim by the EC must be subjected to the legal due process. The challenge I see here is it was the duty of the EC to prevent this crime by the new biometric system we paid for. Did they perform their duty?
This reminds me of the policeman who lurks in the curve or under the tree with a speed gun and immediately springs up when you approach that you were over speeding when his visible presence could have prevented the over speeding. In anycase, you are not even sure if the reading was yours or that of another car.
From the reasons given by the EC to use technology to clean the old voters register of duplications and/or multiple registrations the least they could have done was to have an online, real time data capture system unto a central database to assure as of the integrity of the system. How can we have duplication in a biometric data capture system? The technology is not wrong but the implementation is wrong. What a waste of resources if you ask me?
Dr Kofi Anokye Owusu-Darko holds an EMBA (IT Management) and LLM (IT & Telecommunication)