By: Yusuf M Hasan
BORAME (Somalilandsun) – For the next 28 days residents of Awdal Region have the opportunity to register as voters thence full participation in Somaliland presidential and parliamentary elections slated for March 2017.
The registration exercise was launched in Borame the Awdal regional capital on 13th February 2016 by the Somaliland National Election Commission-NEC supported by regional authorities and ministry of interior officials as well as leaders of the various local governments in the area.
According to NEC that had all its seven commissioners revealed that the Awdal Region voter registration exercise shall be undertaken in five districts at 138 centres for a period of 28 days in order to avail all citizens of voting age in the region ample time to acquire the ballot gatepass.
"The 138 registration centres are strategically situated in strategic areas in the five districts of Baki, Borame, Lughaya, Sayla and Lowya'ado and easily accessible to all residents of the region" said a NEC commissioner during the launch while adding that over 1000 registration clerks.
The clerks who have all been recruited from local universities shall be accompanied at their individual work centres by Security personnel ,NEC monitors and political party officials representing ruling Kulmiye and opposition Wadani and UCID.
While requesting local residents to receive the registration teams at their respective areas cordially the NEC commissioners also urged the visiting teams to conduct their activities professionally, "Perform your duties in a professional manner as trained thence gain the trust and respect of the citizens your are serving"
The Somaliland election commissioners also cautioned their underlings to use the modern biometric registration tools under their charge with care for optimal performance while thanking local residents for their kindness in hiring their much needed 4X4 vehicles for use in the exercise.
Awdal region is the second venue of the Voter registration in the country After several months of careful preparations that saw Somaliland mark an important step forward in the democratization process that saw NEC launch of a biometric voter registration process on 16 January 2016 in the Eastern region of Toghdeer where almost 90% of the target was reached
Somaliland has held five successful elections since 2002 as part of its democratization process. While national and international observers have generally deemed these elections peaceful and credible, all but one has been held without a voter register, leaving the process susceptible to problems such as multiple voting.
But with NEC using an iris-capture biometric voter registration system – the first of its kind to be used in Africa to register voters across Somaliland which is not only an important step forward in the democratization process for country as well as a milestone for the region any instances of multiple registration are assuredly impossible.
With the One goal of having honest, respected elections," through creating fraud-free voter registrations list the Somaliland government and its democratization partners turned to biometrics as a means to generate such a list."
Towards this end they acquired the Biometric an iris-based voter registration system developed by University of Notre Dame biometrics expert Kevin Bowyer and his Ph.D. students Estefan Ortiz and Amanda Sgroi thus availing "Somaliland the most technically sophisticated voting register in the world", says election specialist Roy Dalle Vedove
"The ultimate goal is that you can only vote one time," and "If you're trying to vote a second time, then the iris recognition system is going to block you before you can even cast your ballot informs Amanda Sgroi, a University of Notre Dame student who helped develop the system
Following the successful foiling of attempted double registration in Toghdeer region as well as that of ID card registration in Hargeisa that uses the same technology it is hoped that similar acts not only in Awdal but any other regions of the country shall be made untenable as a prelude to a fraud-free voter registration list and subsequent realization of honest, respected elections in Somaliland.
The effectiveness of the Biometric registration system was ascertained by Somaliland Non State Actors Forum-Sonsaf which together with the Somaliland Civil Society Election Forum -SCISEF deployed domestic observers in more than 90 out of 163 voter registration centers in the just concluded voter registration exercise in Togdher region
In its observer report Sonsaf stated For the first time in its democratization process the Somaliland National Election Commission-NEC has managed to deter double or multiple voter registration.
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