On Thursday April 5, IRIS hosted a presentation and roundtable led by the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) in Sulaymaniyah at AUIS. The goal was to educate voters, provide information about the new electronic voting system, and encourage citizen participation in the electoral processes in Kurdistan Region and Iraq.

Hawre Tofeq, Director of IHEC Sulaymaniyah, gave a thirty-minute presentation, then opened the floor to the audience to ask the IHEC questions about the upcoming elections. The audience consisted of approximately 40 community leaders, civil society activists, NGO representatives, members of the IDP communities, members of youth and women’s networks and journalists.

During his presentation, Mr. Tofeq spoke about IHEC’s role in the elections and its efforts to combat fraud using advanced technology. He reported that the IHEC has partnered with a European IT company to implement an electronic system that registers biometric data in voting cards. IHEC keeps these cards for two days after the election day to prevent fraud. In addition, the system uses an electronic pen with IHEC’s logo that is only available in voting stations. The new electronic system also makes the vote counting process faster and more accurate using only a small number of staff members. IHEC also requires all candidates to cease campaigns by a specific date or face a penalty for noncompliance.

During the question and answer session, members of the IDP communities in the audience raised questions regarding the voting process and voting station locations. Mr Tofeq explained the steps the IHEC has taken to accommodate IDP voters: 1. Designated IDP voting booths are set up either in schools near camps, or inside camps if there are no nearby schools; 2. IDPs can obtain an electronic voting card if they have the required documents; and special considerations are made for those who have lost their documents, such as the ability to use their Iraqi national ID to vote. Toward the end of the session, Mr Tofeq encouraged the audience to register to vote. He also urged the audience members to help spread awareness about the elections and the new electronic system.