Skip to main content

Inaccurate contact information in voter databases proves troublesome

Paul Newman Archive

In the for-profit private sector, data quality can make the difference between a smart business decision and a costly misstep. In the public realm, it's not about making profits or incurring losses, but trouble with bad data can lead to serious miscarriages of justice.

For example, consider the case of the federal government in the Maldives. According to Minivan News, the small Indian Ocean island nation recently realized that its presidential election was a sham because large numbers of deceased people were showing up in their voter registration databases. Because the country's government data was riddled with inaccuracies, the citizens were unable to elect the democratic leaders they desired.

The news source explained that according to the nation's constitution, it typically takes 45 to 60 days for the government to prepare for a presidential election. The election was originally scheduled for October 19, but due to trouble with the voter database, the schedule had to be pushed back significantly, the Supreme Court ruled. The first round of elections has been annulled.

Fareeda Yoosuf, director of the country's Department of National Registration, said to Minivan News that it has been difficult to fix the data quality problem - the government's methods of gathering and purifying information have been largely ineffective.

"We have removed the names of deceased people from our database whose information has been shared," Yoosuf told the news source. "But we cannot remove a person from the database if we can't officially confirm their deaths."

More quality assurance needed
This appears to be a situation where better data quality solutions would come in handy. If the Maldives had been able to use quality assurance software to weed out imperfections in its voter registration data, this catastrophe could have been avoided.

Fuwad Thowfeek, chairman of the Maldives' elections commission, says that the government is trying to pay more attention to data quality, but it's been difficult.

"It has been very hard work over the last five years to come up with a voter registry of this standard," Thowfeek told Minivan News.

This is just one example of a situation where a federal government could benefit from a higher standard of data quality. And contrary to popular belief, this is not merely a problem that affects developing nations across the globe. Even in the United States, public data is often riddled with imperfections. By focusing more on accuracy, government officials can do a world of good.