I get a lot of questions about validation; what is it and why is it important.
A bit of a background then.
There is a bill pending in the Senate (and passed in the House of Representatives) that, if signed into law, will make BIOMETRICS mandatory by 2013. In other words, this law will make sure that if by election day in 2013 you still don’t have your digitally captured fingerprints, image, and signature on your voter registration record, you will NOT be able to vote.
No biometrics, no vote.
Why are biometrics so important then? Biometrics are important because they allow the COMELEC to ensure that the list of voters is squeaky clean. How?
We have a database that contains the biometric records of everyone who has registered as a voter since 2004. That’s more than 25 million people (remember that. pop quiz later).
In other words, for each one of those people, we have that set of unique biometric identifiers: fingerprint + picture + signature. Unique because no one else will have the same combination of identifiers that any individual does.
So, if someone attempts to register again but uses a different name, then two out of three biometric identifiers will remain the same, but the third will show up as an irregularity: fingerprint + picture + new signature. That will trigger an alert that will prevent the person from registering under the new name.
And in case the person slips past that filter, the regular updating of the database will inevitably reveal that a single set of fingerprints appears on two different records. Let’s call that process biometrics matching (remember that too). Because fingerprints are unique to a person, this result is obviously an irregularity called multiple registration. Now that’s might lead to the filing of criminal charges because under the law, you can have only ONE voter record. At the very least, steps will be taken to determine the person’s true identity, and the fake one will be deleted.
Ok. Pop quiz time. How many people have biometrics?
More than 25 million, right? Right. But there are more than 50 million registered voters. Which means that only a little more than half of all registered voters actually have biometrics. That’s a LOT of people.
Why does it matter?
It matters because of how biometrics matching (I asked you to remember that, remember?) works.
Biometrics matching essentially looks at each voter record (fingerprints + picture + signature) and tries to find a match in the entire database. SO basically the computer - using a program called the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) - looks at, say for example, YOUR record and tries to find your fingerprints, and your picture, and your signature in all of the 24,999,999 other records in the database. If it finds any of your three identifers in any other record, you’re in trouble.
The problem is, there are 50 million plus voters. SO, the AFIS is actually looking at only about half of the possibilities.
Take me for instance. I turned eighteen in 1991 and registered the same year (I think). I’ve been voting fairly regularly (I’ve missed a few, I admit) so I’m still a registered voter. But the thing is, my electronically recorded fingerprints, picture, and signature are NOT in the database. Theoretically, therefore, I could go in for biometrics registration using a fake name. This means I would have two records - one with, and the other without biometrics. Come election day, I would be a potential flying voter.
Of course, flying voters are just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, that problem usually involves just a handful of voters. Nothing to get excited about. However, a dirty list of voters can also be used to facilitate massive fraud.
Just one example: In every election, the COMELEC prints 1 ballot for every single registered voter. So, if you have a dirty list that is filled up with multiple registrants, you’ll have a huge number of excess ballots that can later be used - with the application of guns and gold, of course - to tilt the outcome.
So, the biometrics matching process won’t really be able to identify ALL multiple registrants (and therefore prevent flying voting) unless the database is 100% complete. Which, as of right now, it is not.
This is where that bill comes in.
The bill to make biometrics registration mandatory aims to force people who are registered but don’t have biometrics yet (like me) to come in for biometrics registration in a process called VALIDATION. If we don’t, the bill proposes, we will either be removed from the list of voters and not be allowed to vote.
The idea is to get people to register their biometrics, so that we can get the database up to 100% which will make our list of voters cleaner and more accurate than it has ever been; the end, in other words, of flying voters.
And that is why validation is important.