On 12 February, the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) of Armenia tested the new Voter Authentication Devices (VADs) which will be used for the first time during the upcoming parliamentary elections, scheduled for 2 April 2017. The equipment has been provided by the UNDP electoral assistance project with the funding by the European Union, United States, Germany, United Kingdom, and Government of Armenia.
The main purpose of the test is to identify any potential technical problems and come up with solutions ahead of the finalization of the software, hardware and procedures. In addition, the testing provided an opportunity to present the new technology to the voters for the first time and gauge their response to the new procedure.
The representatives of the main project donors, including the EU Delegation to Armenia, had an opportunity to observe the testing in the communities of Varadanshen and Semyonvoka. The new procedure is brief and simple. The voter provides an identification document to the VAD operator, who scans it and checks the data displayed on the screen.
Once the document is authenticated by the device, the voter is asked to place his/her right index finger in the finger print scanner and once the finger print is registered the device automatically prints the voter slip. The printing of the slip registers the authentication. The voter slip is an essential element in the new overall polling procedure as the voter has to return it at the ballot box in order to cast his/her ballot. The fingerprints are then stored in a database which allows for the eventual cross-checking and identification of potential attempts at double voting.
As such, the new equipment is at once a deterrent against double voting as well as a confidence-building measure. In addition, once the Government of Armenia completes the collection of biometric data from all the citizens, the equipment may also be used to identify the voters biometrically, adding another layer of confidence and security.
Ambassador Piotr Switalski, Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia which is providing more than 7 million EUR to support elections in Armenia, noted in his remarks about the testing: “We understand that the overall picture is positive. It was a good exercise.”
Moreover, in January Ambassador highlighted in a press conference the very good cooperation of the EU and UNDP, stating that “our colleagues from the UNDP are doing really a great job so that everything is in place for the Election Day”.
UNDP project “Support to the Electoral Process in Armenia” (SEPA) is generously funded by the EU, United States, Germany, United Kingdom, and the Government of Armenia.