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What’s the Difference Between Biometric Voter Registration and Optical Marked Registration

Monrovia – In Liberia, series of elections have been conducted using the manual Optical Marked Recognition System for voter registration. But in the ongoing electoral process, the National Elections Commission or NEC is using the Biometric Voter Registration to collect data on eligible voters. The type and sequence of registration activities vary considerably according to the specific system and methods chosen for gathering voters’ data.

Explained By: Jerry Gaye | LVL Fact-Checker

In this explainer, we will tell you all of the things you need to know about the two forms of registration and what are the differences from the other like we did in another explainer.

What is Optical Marked Recognition or OMR?

OMR is a technology that allows a machine to recognize marks made on a paper form, such as ticks, bubbles, or checkmarks. The equipment also captures structured data, and a scanner used to translate the captured data into a database. To fill in an OMR form correctly, the relevant area on the form must be ‘shaded’ or ‘marked’. It is performed with a hardware device (scanner) that detects the reflection or limited transmission of light on or through a sheet of paper.

The scanner device captures images from photographic prints, posters, magazine pages and similar sources for computer editing and display.

The use of OMR in election does not necessarily result in efficiency gains; rather, it shifts the workload to the local registration teams. This process is error-prone and requires qualitative training as well as high concentration and dedication on the part of the registration staff.

For example, in the 2005 election in Liberia, several steps were necessary to clean the forms and verify the data. Over 50 staff members were employed at the central data center to clean data before and after the scanning process. The OMR has been used in past elections in Liberia before the introduction of the Biometric Voter Registration or BVR for the 2023 elections.

What is the Biometric Voters Registration or BVR?

Biometric Voter Registration involves the use of biometric technologies like computers, fingerprint scanners, and digital cameras to capture the biodata of applicants. It uses unique features of voter’s physical characteristics, such as facial features or fingerprints in addition to demographic data to identify them and civil data or Personally Identifiable Information (PII)-Name, gender, identity card/passport number, telephone number etc.

The Identification card that is generated from the BVR is used to recognize and analyze an individual based on their physical and behavioral traits: fingerprints, eye retina and iris scanning, voice recognition, facial patterns, and body movement, including gait. Biometric Cards also employ “smart cards” that include several security features, such as an optical strip or barcode, an embedded chip, a holographic security image, and more.

Have African countries used biometric voter registration in past elections?

African Countries, in past elections have used the biometric voter’s registrations. According to reports, the use of the BVR in the elections helped to prevent “duplication,” which is when the same person register or vote multiple times in different locations.

The system has been tested in several African countries including Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Ghana etc. and was proven effective. There are also several others in Liberia and Sierra Leone that have anticipated to implement the BVR system in their elections.

With the growing number of countries in Africa utilizing or expressing interest to utilize the systems in their democratic processes, local businesses in those countries are now offering biometric solutions to other countries.

The adaptation of the system was slowed by the continent’s core problems and the pandemic. However, public trust is very high, and election transparency of BVR system forces governments across the continent to plan and invest more in biometrics. With the current rate of development, it will not be surprising to see African countries beginning to experiment E-voting systems in the near future.

The Chat below show the difference between OMR and BVR?

The difference between the OMR and BVR Systems in elections are detailed in the below table.

Optical Marked Recognition (OMR) Biometric Voter Registration
Gathers information from voters by recognizing marks on a document. Gathers information from voters by using the biodata of applicants.
It accomplished using scanner that detects a reflection or limited light transmittance on or through a piece of paper. Uses a computer finger-print scanners and digital cameras to capture the biodata of applicants.


Applicant’s data on ID Cards include passport size photos and signatures and does not have barcode


Applicants’ data on ID Cards include passport size photos, signatures, thumbprints, and barcode
Has no in-built mechanism or input device to detect multiple registration Has an inbuilt mechanism or input device to detect multiple registration


This content with develop with the support of Internews through the USAID Media Activity project. The funder has to say editorial decision of this content.

Jerry Gaye is a Liberian journalist and Fact Checker and an experienced with over six years of working experience. He is a skilled in News Writing and Editing, Feature Writing, and Investigative Reporting.

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