It was with interest and concern that I read about the new election law recently signed by Bolivian President Evo Morales. The AP reports that it “sets stricter standards for voter authentication, introducing a $30 million system of biometric identification, based on voters’ fingerprints.”
It is important to secure voting systems against fraud, but be careful how you do it. Identity systems are powerful administrative tools which historically haven’t mixed well with authoritarian governments.
A biometric voter identification system was apparently a demand of Morales’ right-wing opposition. Don’t be surprised if he uses it to consolidate power or do far worse than that to his political rivals.
Some advocates have dabbled in supporting a national ID in the United States for election administration, but that would be error. I wrote about the many risks of uniform identity systems in my book Identity Crisis: How Identification is Overused and Misunderstood.