Uganda poll officials resort to manual register as biometric machines fail

Thursday January 14 2021
Uganda vote.

A polling assistant confirms a voter's identity using the biometric voter identification machine in Bwebajja during the Uganda election on January 14, 2020. PHOTO | MORGAN MBABAZI


Voting in Uganda’s presidential and parliamentary elections on Thursday faced hitches as some biometric voter identification machines failed.

Electoral Commission spokesperson Paul Bukenya said they have “had issues with the biometric machines” and the electoral body has directed presiding officers to “put the machines aside.”

Officials at various polling stations told The EastAfrican they resorted to the manual voter register, a process that is bound to slow voting.

“At first the machine was slow but later it failed totally. So we have stopped using it,” said Medard Opita, the presiding officer at Jjuuko Kikko Ground in Kibuye 1 Parish, Makindye Division in Kampala City.

Uganda election.

A woman casts her vote at Hajj Batta’s residence in Katwe, in Uganda's capital Kampala, on January 14, 2021. PHOTO | MORGAN MBABAZI

Some polling stations did not encounter machine failure and continued using their biometric voter identification gadgets.


More than 18 million registered voters in Uganda, 40.8 percent are of whom are aged below the 30, are expected to vote in these polls to elect the next president and parliament.

Polls opened at 7am EAT and are scheduled to close at 4pm EAT.

Long queues were witnessed at polling stations early morning and grew even longer some stations as the biometric gadgets failed.

Uganda voters.

A police officer monitors voters as queues grow longer at Jjuuko Kikko ground polling station in Makindye, in Uganda's capital Kampala. PHOTO | MORGAN MBABAZI

Candidates expressed fear that the failure of the biometric voter identification system would slow down voting and many would be locked out as voting is scheduled to close at 4pm EAT (1pm GMT).

However, Mr Bukenya said that all voters who are in the queues at 4pm would be allowed to vote as per the Electoral Commission guidelines.