(The Center Square) — As several other states push to remove the technology from the electoral process, lawmakers in Arkansas are considering how biometric information could be used at the ballot box.
A legislative study concluded that the use of biometrics in Arkansas elections faced technology shortcomings and public perception issues, but was not ruled out for the future. Rep. Stephen Meeks, R-Greenbrier, who sponsored Bill 421 requiring the study of election technology that includes fingerprints and facial recognition, reported the findings to the House Committee on State Agencies and government affairs on Tuesday.
The study looked at biometric technology as a way to secure elections, as well as ways to track mail-in ballots. After numerous discussions with the secretary of state and experts in the field of biometrics, Meeks said the technology is not currently in a place where it can handle a large enough database for elections.
“While the field of biometrics is mature enough to be able to handle small groups of people, for example the size of a company or a school – it is actually used in many of our schools for lunches and so on. sequel – that the technology is actually not, and I was surprised to learn this, biometrics technology is not yet mature enough to be able to potentially handle a database of three million users,” Meeks said.
However, technology was not the only obstacle.
“There were also concerns about public acceptance,” Meeks said. “Would the public be open to the government having their fingerprints or other types of data, especially in this situation? So at this point, based on our discussions and discussions with experts, biometrics, while we think that’s something that’s going to happen at some point in the future, we’re just not into it not yet arrived at this place.
Although Meeks went on to say that everyone in the meetings was of the opinion that biometrics would be used in future elections and that it was something to “watch and study further”.
Public perception was also highlighted during discussions of the potential use of unique identifiers such as QR codes on mail-in ballots.
“In the last election with mail-in ballots, one of the most common questions I was asked by the people who sent them in was: ‘How do I know my ballot was received and when it was been received, what if it was counted?” Meeks said. either on the ballot that when it arrives at the office is scanned, appears on a website or somewhere that is easily accessible where the voter can go to check and see yes my ballot was received and correctly counted .
Representative Nelda Speaks, R-Mountain Home, raised concerns about election confidentiality.
“What’s stopping you from going back and finding out exactly how I voted?” asked Speak. “Really, I don’t care if people know how I vote, but a lot of people do, and it should stay that way.”
Meeks acknowledged that this was one of the challenges of the technology and that the barcode would have to be done in such a way that “the two could never be matched”.
“I wouldn’t be in favor of this if there wasn’t some way to ensure the vote remained secret,” Meeks said.
However, he said the use of a unique identifier was deemed unnecessary at this time by the Secretary of State’s office, who informed him that it would duplicate systems already in place.
A final written report of the study is due to the Legislative Council by November 30.