A Long Island biometrics company will play a pivotal role in Zimbabwe’s upcoming election, the first following the 37-year rule of deposed president Robert Mugabe.
Long Beach-based Ipsidy Inc. is providing the hardware and software to verify the biometric data on an estimated 7 million eligible Zimbabwean voters, the company’s chief executive, Philip Beck, said in an email Wednesday.
Charges of vote-rigging marred presidential elections under the regime of Mugabe, who was forced to resign by Zimbabwe’s military in November.
Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who took power, has promised to run transparent elections. Balloting is expected to be held in July.
Beck said that all voters will have to go through an enrolment process, having photographs taken, identity documents verified and 10 fingerprints scanned.
He said that seven of Ipsidy’s 100 employees are working on the $1.5 million Zimbabwe project to ensure all the fingerprints are unique and prepare the voter roll.
Ipsidy announced the contract with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission in March, following a court ruling that denied a challenge by a rival biometrics company, Laxton Group Ltd.
Laxton Group, based in South Africa, had charged the commission with manipulating the bidding process.
Beck said Ipsidy has previously provided voter biometric services to the governments of Zambia, Malawi and Guinea.
Zimbabwe, whose primary language is English, has 13.8 million people in a country slightly larger than Montana, according to the Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook. The median age is 20, and the unemployment rate was estimated at 95 percent in 2014, according to the World Factbook.
Joe Mohen, the former chief executive of Garden City-based Election.com Inc., said that election officials in southern Africa have to deal with issues not faced in most Western countries.
For instance, voters may not have a permanent address or standard documentation.
“There are issues they have to deal with that make their elections much more sophisticated,” he said.
Election.com in 2000 oversaw the Arizona Democratic presidential primary, the United States’ only major online election.
Mohen recounted a joke Zimbabweans tell about the seemingly endless rule of Mugabe, in which African explorers stumble upon a mummy that appears to have been dead for hundreds of years. Suddenly the mummy stirs, opens its eyes and asks: “Is Mugabe still in office?”
Ipsidy, formerly known as ID Global Solutions Corp., moved its headquarters to Long Island from Longwood, Florida, and hired Beck as chairman, president and chief executive in January 2017.
In the year ended Dec. 21 Ipsidy reported revenue of $2.3 million versus $1.9 million in 2016. The company’s net loss widened to $17.5 million compared to $9.9 million in 2016.
Shares of Ipsidy rose 4.8 percent to close at 27 cents on Thursday.