ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – As polling stations opened across the Kurdistan Region and Iraq on Saturday, voters complained about multiple delays caused by malfunctioning electronic voting devices.
Over 24 million people are eligible to vote in Iraq's parliamentary elections, including 3.1 million people in the Kurdistan Region. As large numbers of people began arriving at voting stations as they opened at 7 am, many found themselves in long, slow-moving lines.
“I've been waiting in this line for three hours. The process of voting is extremely slow,” one would-be Kurdish voter in Erbil told Kurdistan 24 during a live broadcast.
“This is all because of the voting device that sometimes stops working, he added. "It does not recognize the election cards and electronic fingerprints."
The same issue was reported in many other stations in Erbil, Duhok, Sulaimani, Baghdad and Salahaddin provinces.
“It took over 10 minutes to vote because the voting device could not recognize my fingerprint,” said Ahmed Haji Salim, a 73-year-old man from Baghdad said to Kurdistan 24.
Following the delays, Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) announced it would forego electronic fingerprinting for those who face the problem, instead using the previous low-tech method of ink and election cards.
A supervisor in one of the polling stations told Kurdistan 24 that the malfunction is limited to elderly voters because the device has increased difficulty recognizing their fingerprints.
Polling stations are scheduled to close at 6:00 pm across the country. Ali Qadr, head of IHEC's office in Erbil, told Kurdistan 24 that the time would not be extended under any circumstances because the voting devices will automatically shut off at 6:00 pm, though some media reports contradict his claim.
Two hours after ballot stations close, he said, IHEC will announce voter turnout numbers and discuss any problems that occurred during the process.
Over three million people in Iraq will be able to cast their vote for the first time in today's national elections.
Nearly 7,000 candidates are competing to fill 328 seats in the next Baghdad Parliament.
It is the first election in the country since the defeat of the Islamic State (IS) late last year and the fourth parliamentary election since the fall of the regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Editing by John J. Catherine