With the 2020 U.S. presidential election still at the forefront of the news cycle, conversations have emerged around voter support, turnout, and even potential suppression and election tampering. Discussions often cite new technologies as the possible fix to issues that plague voters and governments alike. Issues of trust extend throughout the voting system, including methodologies in registration, vote collection, ballot counting and verification.
One such set of technologies, biometric authentication, offers new opportunities to increase convenience and voter efficiencies. Biometric authentication refers to the collection of physical or behavioral data that is unique to an individual to prove their identity and provide access to a product, service, event or action.
In this case, biometric authentication would verify and secure voter registration.
There are myriad modes of biometric data collection that IoT technologies make possible, such as fingerprinting, palm veining and behavioral analytics.
Governments around the world — including those in Australia, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines and Pakistan — have all moved forward with digital ID systems and plan to continue to explore biometric authentication’s promise for voter registration. Biometric authentication can give greater access to elections for populations to vote more easily and efficiently.
Currently in the U.S., various cities have tested biometrically enabled mobile votes and absentee ballots. Voters simply download an app, use biometrics — such as fingerprints or facial recognition on their phone — to verify their identity and submit their vote. Election officials later verify the biometric factors via comparison to paper ballot printouts.
Biometric authentication also discourages fraud because of its accuracy in identifying an individual based on multiple biometric markers. For example, recent research has shown that photoacoustic tomography — the scanning used in finger and palm veining — is 99% accurate for biometrically acceptance or rejection of an identity. Proponents of biometric authentication also tout its ability to better thwart election rigging and ballot tampering if it is implemented with secure data protocols in place.