Biometric Voter Registration Kits Arrive in Yemen, Signaling a New Era for Yemen
SANA’A, YEMEN – Two-thousand nine-hundred and fifty biometric voter registration kits have arrived in Yemen as a portion of the planned roll out of a technologically-advanced biometric voter registration system supported by the Multi-donor Basket Fund project managed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which is spearheading the support to the reform to the currently outdated voter registry.
Inside the massive warehouse behind the Supreme Commission of Elections and Referendum(SCER) where ballot papers, bulk containers of ink, and ballot boxes of the past sit, 2,950 biometric voter registration kits are stacked in neat rows, representing the future of electoral processes in Yemen.
As Eid el-Fitr celebrations were winding down, the first batch of kits arrived in order to undergo a series of hardware and software tests by the operational and training experts and staff currently engaged in long meetings about the details of voter registration, registration center distribution, training and electoral procedures.
The arrival of the kits at the SCER represents one positive step forward in a multi-layered process of planning, strategizing and implementing the historic task of reforming the current voter registry and paving the way for a new, streamlined and transparent registry for tomorrow’s voters, said Darren Nance, the Chief Technical Advisor for the Support to the Elections during the Transitional Phase project based out of the SCER. Mr. Nance added that the kits and registration process as a whole are now to become the central focus of the SCER and its staff as they begin training on procedural modules with more than 40,000 operators who will be deployed with the kits at 5,620 voter registration centers across the country.
Another shipment of 1,640 kits similarly will make their way to the SCER from France in the coming week. The kits, procured through the Multi-Donor Basket Fund, which is composed apart from UNDP- a group of international partners including the United Kingdom, Sweden, Saudi Arabia, Denmark, Japan, Turkey and the Netherlands - encased in durable, all-purpose cases are a combination of computers, fingerprint scanners, digital cameras assembled into one 14-pound portable registration system.
In mid-June, three companies, from Belgium, France and The Netherlands, were selected through an open and transparent procurement process headed by UNDP’s Global Electoral Procurement Office located in Copenhagen, Denmark, to participate in a technical evaluation as well as field testing of their respective voter registration equipment. The field tests produced a single system that experts and SCER judges deemed the right fit for the nationwide project. Procurement specialists and electoral experts worked day and night in coordination with the SCER in order to select the appropriate system and software for the registration process.
This is one of the many crucial steps needed to make this a successful voter registration project, said Chairman of the SCER Judge Mohammed Hussein Al-Hakimi. Judge Al-Hakimi added that the kits are a central part of our plan, and together with UNDP, and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), the voter registration process will be a success.
UNDP and IFES electoral experts, both globally and those stationed in Yemen, along with the SCER and Civil Registration Authority of Yemen (CRA), have been pouring over strategies, project documents, and technical specifications in order to ensure the right fit of equipment matches the strategic vision and technical specifications established for a fingerprint and photo-based biometric voter registration system planned to be rolled out in the coming months.
Preparations for a nationwide voter education and outreach plan are underway, as the SCER prepares master trainers who will perform a wide-ranging training program to train 45,000 temporary employees for the registration process.
The data collected from the voter registration project will feed into a similarly ambitious project of the CRA to reform the Civil Registry, with the ultimate goal of an electronic national identification card system that consolidates and streamlines processes for citizens.