The Telangana government will test voter identification in the January 23 municipal elections through a face-recognition application on a pilot basis. This will be the first time facial recognition software is used to ascertain voters identity.
The pilot will be introduced for 10 polling stations (Nos. 13, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23, 24, 27, 31 and 32) in Kompally Municipality in Medchal Malkajgiri District. An additional polling officer will select the voter and identity card pictures submitted by her on a mobile phone with the facial recognition software and send them to Telangana State Technology Services (TSTS). After matching, the result will be sent back to the mobile phone.
However, even if the result is negative, the person will be able to vote using their ID card, based on the prescribed identification process. “The usual duties of polling workers will be intact, and there will be no change in the polling station due to the introduction of face recognition application,” an official said.
Telangana State Election Commission Secretary M Ashok Kumar said in a circular released on Saturday that since impersonation and bogus voting sometimes lead to repolling, facial recognition was being tested to authenticate the identity of the voters. The announcement was made under the headline, “Application for Face Recognition— Method of voter verification at polling stations using real-time authentication capabilities through a mobile phone using latest technologies from Artificial Intelligence, Big data, Machine Learning and Deep learning on Pilot Basis”.
Elaborating, an official said: “The First Polling Officer who is in charge of voter identification is required to perform several transactions, as a result of which there is little opportunity for that officer even to look at the voter’s face and compare the electoral rolls with the ID card or picture. Against this context, the TSTS ‘ initiative, which uses facial recognition technology to verify pensioner identity, is considered a viable method for adding objectivity to the practice of voter identification.
“However, this technology is proposed as an additional tool for validating the identity of the elector in addition to the existing procedures prescribed, such as employing the First Polling Officer as Identification Officer, using photographic electoral rolls, insisting on proof of the photo ID in addition to personal scrutiny by polling officers appointed by the contesting candidates.”
The official said that “the images will be assured not to be retained or used for any other purpose” and will be deleted from both the mobile phones used in polling stations and the TSTS server. Before the pilot is introduced TSTS must give an undertaking to that effect.