The capacity of innovation was displayed when over 100,000 presidential supporter signatures were rapidly verified within 10 days by the Constitutional Council, using a new technology developed by Mozambique’s Eduardo Mondlane University with support from the United Nations (UNDP).
A short two months before Mozambique’s 2019 presidential election, the Constitutional Council faced a challenge: to verify over 100,000 supporter signatures and related information collected by presidential candidates within a period of 15 days.
According to Mozambican law, to be qualified to run for office, each presidential candidate must submit a required 10,000 and up to 20,000 supporters’ signatures along with voter ID numbers of their supporters. For the 2019 presidential elections eight people submitted their candidacy, with more than 100,000 signatures in total.
Each signature and documentation require cross verification with the citizens database and voter identification registry. Moreover, the process must ensure signatures are not proxy or duplicated for the same candidate or for other candidates. The electoral calendar maintains a strict timeline, allowing only 15 days for the entire process; any delay impacts subsequent run up activities prior to election-day.
In the previous elections, these cumbersome signature verification tasks were manually conducted, increasing the risk of error and performance variation of standard operation resulting in concerns among candidates and stakeholders.
Anticipating the signature verification challenge, the Constitutional Council of Mozambique reached out to UNDP Mozambique in early 2019 to request support to enhance the process.
To facilitate an efficient, transparent and credible electoral process, UNDP established a trilateral partnership with the Constitutional Council and Eduardo Mondlane (EM) University, with a focus on enhancing means to verify signatures of supporters and authenticity of documents filed by the presidential candidates for the nomination process.
Experts from EM University were engaged to develop a software to automate signature verification. UNDP provided technical expertise, guidance in software development, equipment including computers, printers and scanners, and overall support for the process.
Through the expertise of the EM University technical experts, the partnership developed a specific software producing an algorithm used with the voter registry. The software’s automated process verified scanned signatures and voter ID numbers against those in the database, and identified invalid and duplicate entries, to achieve accuracy and efficiency in the verification process.
With the software developed, a vigorous training programme was provided for 50 technical experts from EM University. Once signature packets were submitted, the technical experts worked relentlessly, in two shifts per day, to scan signature sheets, digitize and conduct data entry. The team overcame the challenge in 10-days, well within the 15-day timeframe, thus giving the Constitutional Council the ability to deliver the decisions on time.
Employing this innovative software to conduct the verification process produced clear and verified results in record time. The dedication of all actors of the trilateral partnership and the relentless efforts of the technical experts met the timeline and expanded transparency for all concerned parties.
“It was a titanic task to complete with very limited timeframe and resources and also scrutinized by everyone involved in this process to finish it on time. The signature verification software sped up the process, enabling staff to efficiently cross-check signatures and voter ID numbers.” Dr. Lúcia Ribeiro, President- Constitution Council
The number of signatures collected by each candidate was clearly quantified through the signature verification software. In the process, four of the eight candidates were disqualified by the Constitutional Council for not obtaining the required number of signatures due to duplications, or listed names not being registered voters.
The unique and innovative first-time experience has enhanced the transparency and credibility of the candidate verification process among stakeholders; the process was certified and accepted by all observer groups, political parties and candidates. The Constitutional Council plans to again use the same software in the next election.
The positive outcome also strengthened the capacity of the Constitutional Council and EM University, anchoring a strong partnership among the highest judiciary body and an academic institution to support the sustainability of this activity for future elections.
Electoral authorities around the world are using new technologies to meet a growing demand for improved transparency and credibility of elections and the electoral processes. This successful Mozambican experience of signature verification provides a positive case study that could inform other electoral candidate and supporters verification processes.
For more information please contact:
Andres Del Castillo, Chief Technical Advisor,
Election Project- SEAM, UNDP Mozambique