US $5.5 million voter registration system for Solomon Islands
Solomon Islands to get a US$5.5 million voter registration system in an attempt to eradicate voter corruption at next year's election.
The Electoral Commission in Solomon Islands has introduced a new voter registration system ahead of next year's national election in a bid to eradicate the risk of cheating.
But the Anti-Corruption Network says the government may not have the US$5.5 million needed to complete the registration process in time.
Mary Baines filed this report.
The Chief Electoral Officer, Polycarp Haununu, says the new Biometric Voter Registration system will use a laptop, a scanner and a webcam to take photos of each voter's thumb, face and neck. He says a voter identification card will mean it is impossible to cheat the system.
POLYCARP HAUNUNU: Once a worker is registered at the registration centre then she or she will be given an ID card to vote once only during the poll because you will only have one name on the list. We hope that this system will improve the current list, which is not good.
In the past, electoral officers walked from door to door to record registrations manually, which meant some people could register under names of the deceased or more than once. Polycarp Haununu says the current list will be destroyed, and the Electoral Commission will register voters from scratch in January to March next year. But the Anti-Corruption Network chief executive, Barnabas Henson, says while a new registration system is needed, the government may not have the funds to complete it.
BARNABAS HENSON: Given the current issues that the government has with finances, cash flow, it is a question of whether there will be enough funding to complete the work on setting up the whole new registration system.
Mr Henson says it is unlikely electoral officers will be able to reach every eligible voter by the end of March.
BARNABAS HENSON: There is inclusive coverage of the system to cover everybody who is illegible to vote in the coming elections, that's going to be a big challenge. The way things are turning out now, there could be some delay. They're training data input officers and registration officers. How long that will take is yet to be seen.
Mr Henson says the country's communications infrastructure is poor, and whether the new equipment will work in remote areas is not clear. He says there is a lack of public awareness of the new system, so the government has a responsibility to educate people on how it will work and the importance of not losing their voter identification cards. Mr Henson says the system is unlikely to be foolproof against fraudsters.
BARNABAS HENSON: If it's a card that's just laminated that has a photo of somebody on it, that can be easily duplicated or forged. Security features of the system itself need to be 100% foolproof. The information needs to be widely disseminated to have people's minds thinking that this is 100% foolproof system that you just cannot cheat.
The general secretary of The Democratic Party, Chris Waiwori, says the registration system is a step in the right direction to address existing problems. But he says the party is waiting to see how it is implemented.
CHRIS WAIWORI: We'll find out in Session 14, but it's a good initiative for a start. We'll see how it goes. It's the responsibility of people who are there to do the registration to ensure that unscrupulous dealings are happening. We'll just cross our fingers and see whether this new system will be good.
An election date has not yet been set, but Parliament is to dissolved in September or October, and a new Prime Minister must be elected within three months of then.
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