Biometric voting ‘foolproof’

By Farah Naz Karim, NST

PUTRAJAYA: The biometric system that the Election Commission proposes to use in the next general election is foolproof, said the National Registration Department.

The department, the custodian of the data of about 27 million people, including 12million registered voters, also said it had other details of every Malaysian, including their family trees and thumbprints, in its database.

“This cannot be altered,” department director-general Datin Jariah Mohd Said told the New Straits Times last week.

She refuted allegations that the department would be used to tamper with the data of Malaysians to give the ruling party an edge during the polls.

The department stores and updates the profiles of citizens from the time of their birth, that is, when birth certificates are issued.

It updates the data when citizens apply for identity cards at the age of 12.

These forensic evidence, documents and history could not be forged, she said.

“We are, however, resigned to the fact that no matter what we do to improve the system,we will still be accused of this and that.” Under the biometric system, she said the department would extract the data of all voters for the commission to manage.

Commission workers will ask voters at polling stations to place their thumb on a screen after a one-to-one matching.

The process, which takes 20 seconds per voter, will be witnessed by agents appointed by political parties.

Jariah said thumbprint scanning would also detect attempts by people to cast votes for others by using other forms of identification that could be tampered with.

Election regulations allow voters to use documents that have their photograph and identification number, including work passes and a temporary identification letter issued by the department.

Voters who are holders of the old identification card can vote using the document.

Jariah refuted claims that tens of thousands of MyKad had been given to foreigners to give Barisan Nasional a new vote bank.

She said the application for citizenship was stringent and protracted.

The department had processed only about 70,000 applications for citizenship until this year, of which about 36,000 were from those received from 1996 to 2006.

She said the department did not approve all applications, and a large number of them were below the voting age of 21. “(Some quarters) make accusations but never once did they come to us for an explanation.” Although she said there were people selling fake MyKad, she added: “They can sell all the MyKad they want, but it will just be that, a fake document, as the chip will never match the details in the system.” Yesterday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced the approval of funds for the system to boost transparency and check allegations of phantom voters.

On the removal of the names of the dead from the department’s database, Jariah said it would soon have its system linked with the police. The police issue burial permits.

However, the problem with past unreported death remains, and unless the department is told about them, the names will remain in the system. The commission will then use these names in drawing up the electoral roll.

Jariah said she was ready to use her discretion as department chief to do away with fines if relatives of the deceased informed it of their family members’ deaths.

She said community leaders, village heads, as well as political party members, who knew their constituents well, could inform the authorities about voters’ deaths.