Voter registration methods vary in different countries around the world. Some countries apply an active voter registration method, and some other countries apply a passive voter registration method. Active means, voter register themselves with the election organizer to be registered as voter. Meanwhile, passive means that voter are registered as voter automatically by the election organizer.
Other issues discussed around voter list were whether voter data was stored and managed centrally or decentralized, whether voter list were created and updated continuously or periodically following the elections, whether voter card were required, and whether voter card and national identity card were required to carry to the polling station to be able to vote.
From the records of the ACE Project, a continuous voter registration system is a voter registration that is updated continuously outside the electoral stages. Meanwhile, the periodic voter registration system is the registration of voters for an election. In the second system, usually voters who have registered in the previous election must re-register or re-register.
International Foundation for Election System (IFES) voter registration expert, Steve Chanham said that the current global trend shows that many countries are shifting from periodic voter registration system to being sustainable. There is correlation between the adoption of digital national identity and continuous voter registration system. Countries with digital national identities generally have implemented a continuous voter registration system.
“More European countries apply continuous rather than periodic registration. In Soviet or Eastern European countries it is the same. So, in these countries, it appears that with a well-digitized national identity, they can facilitate continuous voter registration,” Steve said at the discussion on “International Comparisons on the Application of Sustainable Voter List “, Thursday (18/3).
Sweden’s continuous voter registration system
The voter registration in Sweden based on a population database owned by the tax authority. This electronic population database was purchased by Swedish election organizer 30 days before the election, then the election organizer printed voter ID cards and distributed them to voters.
“So, the day-to-day management is managed in a sustainable manner by the Swedish tax administration, and given to the electoral authority periodically,” said Steve.
This system does not require a lot of money and personnel, because the management and the updating of the data are carried out by the tax authority.
Continuous voter registration system in Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Election Commission of Bosnia and Herzegovina maintains a continuous voter list with a database derived from state institutions that collect permanent and temporary address data of citizens. Then, voter data is statistically verified by comparing with the data from other institutions that also manage citizen data. This voter list is available to the public , so public can view several polling station options.
Because voter list is based on address data, voters are often troubled by the location of the polling station which is far from their temporary residence. Voter is registered at a polling station in the area of their permanent residence address, while many voters reside in their temporary residence on the voting day.
“Because it is registered with the property and parent’s house, but they leave the house because they have to work. So that in the election, the location of their polls is different from where they live. That’s a problem, “said Steve.
Another problem is the inefficient process of updating voter data. Due to the challenge of data accuracy, if there is a difference between voter data and population data managed by the government, every update of voter data must be communicated and wait for data changes by the government. After that, the voter data will be updated.
“If there is a change in data, for example there is duplication of data, they (election commission) cannot directly change it, they must first provide information to the government to make changes to the original population data, and then change to the voter list. So, it is difficult to manage it because if the data is different, people will see that there is a difference and the integrity of the voters’ data is questionable,” explained Steve.
Mexico’s continuous voter registration system
In the 1990s, the Mexican public brought issues of electoral and political integrity to the spotlight. Political and constitutional changes were followed by the formation of independent electoral institutions. From there, a continuous voter list system was implemented and voter data collection was carried out from scratch.
In fact, in Mexico, to be able to exercise their right to vote, voters must not only be registered on the voter list, but also must have a voter card. Voter list and voter card are maintained and administered by federal or central electoral institutions.
To build trust in the voter list, political parties are involved in the process. However, even though political parties have representatives in Mexico’s election management body, they cannot give an opinion.
Another fact, Mexico does not have a national identity card. Registration of citizen is only done at the district or city level. Therefore, continuous voter registration that is carried out in Mexico throughout the year ultimately has significance for national population registration. In fact, the voter card produced by the Mexican election management body is become the most recognized identity card.
“So, in the end, the identity card produced by the Mexican election management body is increasingly becoming the most recognized identity card. There is indeed an agreement with many public institutions and banks to accept voter card as the primary identity card,” said Carlos Navarro, Director of International Studies and Projects at Mexico’s National Electoral Institute, at the same discussion.
The voter card in Mexico is equipped with 23 security features so that this card cannot be counterfeited. Two features include the use of voter photo to be verified at polling station, and voters are not allowed to vote if they do not carry a voter card, even though the voter’s name and photo are on the voter list.
“If you don’t have a voter card at the polling station, you cannot vote even though your name and photo are on the voter list. We got to that extreme. However, extreme security efforts and a level of sophistication are not advantages, but the need to deal with problems of credibility and confidence in the election results, “concluded Carlos.
Mexico also applies a verification method by visits the home of voters who are the sample of the audit. This method is considered to make the accuracy of the voter list high.
Continuous voter registration system in the Philippines
The continuous voter registration system was implemented in Philippine elections from 1963 to 1984. However, it was replaced by a periodic voter registration system, and has reverted back to a continuous system since the enactment of the 1996 Voter Registration Act.
At that time, after the 1992 Concurrent Elections, there was a decision to adopt a strategic plan to modernize the electoral process. It was decided not only to the process of counting and recapitulating votes to be carried out electronically, but also to the voter registration process.
“Ensuring that the voter list are computerized, digitized. There is also institutional capacity building, modernizing election management institutions, and implementing a flexible legal framework by implementing the new election law. So, this is a whole plan to restructure how elections are held in this country, ”said the former Commissioner for the Commission on Election (Comelec) Philippines, Luie Tito Guia, at the same discussion.
Voters in the Philippines are required to actively register to the election management office in their area of residence. Voters who will turn 18 age on polling day can register even two years before voting. However, even though Comelec conducted daily voter registration at the district or city level, voters registered themselves at the end of the registration period.
The voter list prepared by Comelec will be reviewed and approved by the three Council members every four years. In this review, the number of voter migration will be known in each quarter.
Comelec also has a mechanism to eliminate data on multiple voters or voters who register more than once. The fingerprint identification that was deposited by the voter at the time of registering can be a double proof of data.
“Fingerprints will be looked at nationwide and you can see evidence that some of these voters have registered more than once. Another system is that it becomes mandatory when registering, you enter your biometric data,” said Luie.
The benefits and challenges of a continuous voter registration system
Experience in implementing continuous voter registration systems shows that this system provides two main benefits. First, it allows more time to clean up the voter list. Second, avoid manipulation on voter data.
However, a continuous voter registration system requires a lot of support, namely a large budget, capable officers to manage voter database system, and the availability of information technology facilities and infrastructure in every election management office.
“The technology is very expensive and it is not easy to convince people that there is a need to use funds to modernize the electoral process,” Luie concluded.