Voters in Zambia will go to the polls on October 30 to elect a new president, following the death of President Levy Mwanawasa in late August. The electoral commission says it?s going to use a new computer technology for voter identification cards ? a biometric system. The machines will be able to analyze hair color, fingerprints and eye retinas and irises so as to produce genuine voters? cards. It?s all part of an effort to help reduce voter fraud.  But some say the system is open to manipulation. Voice of America English to Africa Service reporter Danstan Kaunda in Lusaka says in Zambia?s last general elections, over nine thousand people were arrested and prosecuted for registering more than once.

The electoral regulatory body, the Electoral Commission of Zambia, says the new biometric system will prevent thousands of duplicate registrations. The system stores personal information on a smart card carried by the voter to the voting booth.

Brenda Zulu is an independent information technology consultant working with Zambia?s electoral commission.

She says, ?[The biometric system] is very effective because when people register to vote, the name only appears once on the voters? rolls. In the case that the same details appear twice -- the system ejects the second entry. It is easy and quick.?

The electoral commission says it will hold meetings to address concerns about possible errors or failures. It will use the meetings to explain the new system to stakeholders such as political parties.

Brenda Zulu says the system will be tested before Election Day:

?The only concern is that we have got a problem with the power supply in most rural areas. That is the only biggest challenge. Because without electricity, it is very [difficult] to operate computer, fax and/or scanner machines or to post election results to election headquarters in Lusaka from far-away areas. ?

The votes will be cast using a paper punch system and the results will be sent immediately to a central location in Lusaka. Election observers will be able to audit both the number of votes cast and the vote count at any time during or after the voting session.

The three presidential candidates are acting president Rupiah Banda, Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development and Michael Sata of the Patriotic Front Party.

In the United States, mechanical voting machines and punch card systems have been widely used to record votes. But now they, too, are being replaced by optical scanning devices.