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Most Recommended Voting System: Automated Fingerprint Verification

      By George Edwards


The basis of the most recommended voting system specified here is automated fingerprint and one vote per voter verification. Its key features are that it:


  • Uses the most widely accepted biometric identity verification technique,

  • Provides automated fingerprint verification and automated protection against more than

         one vote per fingerprint,

  • Does not require a database,

  • Uses proven technology,

  • Costs less per-precinct to buy than the per-precinct pay for one poll worker


The next four paragraphs briefly expand on the system’s basic usage and operation.


Basic Usage and Operation


At registration, a voter places his fingertip on a fingerprint-scanner-reader that puts the voter’s fingerprint data on a smart card with a unique fingerprint number including the voter’s state and precinct number. Then the voter puts his fingertip on a fingerprint-scanner-reader that compares the voter’s live fingerprint with the fingerprint data on the newly prepared card. If the machine declares a fingerprint data match, a registration place worker gives the card to the voter. Otherwise, the procedure is repeated until the machine declares a match.


To vote, the voter puts the card into a voting-place fingerprint-scanner-reader that compares the voter’s live fingerprint with the fingerprint data on the card. If the machine declares a fingerprint data match, the voter’s vote is automatically counted as long as the reader’s memory does not show the fingerprint number read from the card has already been used in that election.


Otherwise the system will issue an alert that the vote has not been counted along with the reason or that there is some indication of fraud because of such as suspicious data added to or missing from the card or in a different form or pattern. The voter should ask poll workers, if present, or ask voter registration where they can vote if the reason is that the vote is not counted is because it is not allowed at that particular voting place. If the reason is that the same fingerprint number has already been used, no votes are allowed.


 Disputes about refused votes can be handled in the same way as challenges made against a voter--with the customary provisional paper ballot and associated hearing procedure.




Other biometric comparisons than fingerprint matching could be used. However, a knowledgeable person as to biometric card system costs at a premier smart card company says that another biometric comparison system, specifically iris pattern matching, would be more costly than fingerprint matching. Based on comparable system costs, that person’s estimate of a fingerprint verification voting system cost per voter would be less than that required to pay a single poll worker—in South Carolina at least.


Some may object to the use of fingerprint matching because of its association with the criminal justice system. In the criminal justice system, fingerprint matching has been accepted for generations to the extent that a match could be used as evidence supporting even condemning someone to the electric chair. See note 1. concerning comparisons among various biometric types..


The recommended voting system does not require preparation or use of a governmental database that some could object to. And using the unique number assigned to the particular fingerprint, not the voter’s name, for such as to prevent multiple votes further protects privacy.


Automating the finger-print matching removes the need for a poll-worker passing judgment on a signature or photo-voter-match and voter confrontation. This does not negate the desirability of having poll workers available to take care of other contingencies that may arise such as with the voting equipment, voters having moved to another precinct, the failure of a successful smart card fingerprint match that a voter chooses to dispute or other voter ineligibility bases that might include such as conviction of a crime. The automation could allow fewer poll workers.




If desired, the precinct check for multiple votes using the uniquely assigned fingerprint numbers, that include state and precinct numbers, could be repeated at the county or state level. Any duplicated fingerprint number should cause a vote to be automatically rejected.

There are two-year-old-plus assessments of trade-offs in voting methods with general voting system recommendations then and “Ensuring Valid Vote Counts” that have been and remain on giac2002.org. They address further voter registration procedure trade-offs, among others, beyond those specifically associated with automated voter fingerprint verification.  


My "final" most preferred choice combining biometric with voter card approaches in one system rests on additional knowledge gained since those earlier papers were written--hundreds of thousands of Transportation Worker Identification Credentials [TWICs] required for admission to some federal facilities in this country, millions of fingerprint identification cards in other countries and after much "detective" work finding what has been said by a representative of  the premier smart card company, Oberthur--referred to as such by a smart card reader company representative, and conversations with one from Oberthur who seems very knowledgeable.i. Both companies have been involved with "TWIC" systems.


The TWIC technology and procedure appears to be essentially identical to that in the proposed system except that there is no needed check against voting multiple times with TWIC systems.


This most recommended automated voter fingerprint verification system is based on information available as to what is believed currently technologically available while providing the greatest protection against voter fraud at reasonable cost. Another biometric type or combination of types than fingerprints could be used if and when other than simple fingerprint verification is available with acceptable costs and error rates. The choice of a unique fingerprint number to guard against multiple votes by the same voter, rests on the assumption that retaining a unique fingerprint number within a precinct, and the state and overall precinct number in a precinct’s computer memory, is more feasible and economical than retaining the fingerprint data for each one voting in a precinct’s computer memory.


Once smart cards have been made that provide fingerprint [or other biometric data] verification for voting, the biometric data on the cards could also be used to provide added protection against identity theft.


Voter Fraud Instances


There are those who say there is no significant voter fraud. There is significant evidence that there is at least a strong possibility of such. For instance, there are many precincts in which there were more votes cast than those registered to vote. One of the most recent articles giving statistics on such evidence is included near the top of the “Classic Links” section of giac2002.org—dated 2/19/13 and entitled “How Widespread is Voter Fraud? 2012 Facts and Figures.”


There are instances of dead people on voter rolls. Foreigners make fun of the loose procedures in our current voting systems.




We should start the process for procuring the recommended system now rather than later via discussions with those experienced with smart-card systems especially including potential vendors, concerning such as proven desirable encryption/decryption and other methods to guard against card counterfeiting and fraud.


Legislatures must be convinced to act before even the first steps at implementing the system begin—funding a request-for-quote with specifications as to what exactly is required as above including any desired encryption/decryption. After bids are received based on those specifications, legislatures have to authorize the funds to proceed.


System Maintenance and Future Considerations


Obviously new cards will have to be made when new voters enter the system or cards fall into disrepair and provisions are desirable to handle situations in which a voter’s precinct has been changed since the last election cycle so as not to require a provisional ballot yet again.


Changes have to be made to the voting-machine software in every election cycle to include the names of the new candidates and associate them with the proper precinct. The former precinct number must also be newly correlated with that set of new candidates in the voting machine software or smart cards’ precinct numbers would need  to be changed by modification  or replacement. Making the change in voting machines’ software precinct definitions seems more reasonable.


The field for the complete unique fingerprint number provided to prevent multiple votes anywhere in the nation must be large enough to accommodate fingerprint numbers for all current and anticipated voters nationwide for some extended period, say a century, unless deceased voter-fingerprint-number vote-counting is removed from the system as soon as possible after deaths are reported. [Deceased voter live-fingerprints will, by their nature, not be involved and so counted anyway.]




Note 1:  Fingerprint or iris pattern verification are the  types generally preferred for use in systems. The following extracts key quotations from an article on the Web that may be considered representative although over a decade old:



Prepared by Thomas Ruggles <http://www.bioconsulting.com/bio.htm>

  “The biometric methods compared in this report are: Fingerprints, Facial Recognition, Hand Geometry, Retinal Scan, Iris Scan, Vascular Pattern, Signature Dynamics, and Voice Dynamics. Each biometric will be considered in the light of the California Welfare Fraud Prevention System requirements. . . .

  “Retinal Scan has high accuracy but also has high data collection error rate and low user acceptability. Retinal Scan has been used as a CLOSED search biometric; few, if any, applications have used Retinal Scan as an OPEN search biometric.

  “Iris Scan has the potential to have very high OPEN search accuracy.  Iris Scan is unobtrusive and, as such, is generally accepted by clients.  The Iris Scan image capture may be impaired by dark glasses, eye disease, and the percentage of the iris area that is exposed with the eyelid open in a "natural," static environment.  There is some question as to whether a low light condition (that increases the size of the pupil thus decreasing the total area of the iris) may affect the proper imaging of the iris.  As with Retinal Scan, above, few, if any, applications have used Iris Scan as an OPEN search biometric. . . .

  “The Fingerprint biometric has a low data collection error rate and high user acceptability. Further, Fingerprint technology has had the most research and development money applied to both the CLOSED and OPEN biometric search problem. Finally, the Fingerprint biometric has the highest acceptance in the identification community and virtually every large biometric system in operation today uses the Fingerprint biometric. Notwithstanding its association with "criminal" applications, the Fingerprint biometric is generally accepted by clients.

  “After consideration of the performance levels of Fingerprints, Hand Geometry, Retinal Scan, Signature Dynamics, and Voice Dynamics biometrics, I recommend that the Fingerprint biometric be used in the California Welfare Fraud Prevention System.



  “The following sources were used in the compilation of this report:

  “A Performance Evaluation of Biometric Identification Devices, J. Holmes, L. Wright, R. Maxwell (Sandia National Laboratories, SAND91-0278/UC-906, June 1997).

  “Biometrics: Who Goes There?, J. Fenn (Gartner Group, Inc., Spring 1995).

 “Personal Identifier Project Executive Summary (State of California Department of Motor Vehicles (CA DMV), 16 May 1990).

  “Electronics Benefits Transfer - Use of Biometrics To Deter Fraud In The Nationwide EBT Program, GAO/OSI-95-20 (September 1995)."