Mexico's Instituto Federal Electoral (IFE) is an autonomous, non-partisan organisation charged with ensuring free and fair elections.
In January, 2004, IFE entered into a four-year contract with Digimarc Corporation to design and supply secure, reliable voter ID cards to Mexican citizens in order to help ensure the ideal of "One Citizen, One Vote."
Voter Identification Systems
Digimarc's Mexico-based secure ID factory began production of voter ID cards on March 29, 2004. In the three years since then, nearly 25 million credentials have been produced and Mexico's voter ID card is now widely regarded as one of the most secure, reliable voter identification systems in the world. So trusted is the integrity of Mexico's voter ID credential that amid all the controversy surrounding the close presidential election on July 2, 2006, no one questioned the security, reliability, or authenticity of Mexico's voter identification itself. Indeed, Mexico's voter ID has become the country's de fact
o identification document and is readily accepted as positive proof-of-identity by merchants, banks, government officials, and citizens nationwide.
In addition to producing Mexico's voter ID, the Mexico-based Digimarc facility also produced over four million voter ID documents for the Provisional Electoral Council of Haiti to help facilitate that country's historic first election held in February, 2006.
Secure Production of Voter ID Documents
Approximately 45,000 voter ID documents are produced each day in Digimarc's highly secure, state-of-the-art central issuance facility. The company uses unique "Zero-gap" materials management techniques and inventory control procedures that ensure 100% reconciliation of all cards and component materials with no omissions, duplicates or unreported shrinkage. Citizen data and card materials are protected and tracked every step of the way through the entire production process. Layers of cross-checks and security controls across the building, employees, and processes - such as cement construction, dual sets of doors, dual checkpoints, security cameras, vault storage of card materials, and extensive employee background checks - are built into the system to ensure the integrity of the card and production process.
In addition, the machines used in the production facility are customised and proprietary. They are large, expensive, and require technical expertise far beyond the knowledge or capabilities of a casual fraud perpetrator - adding yet another layer of security to the process. Finally, no pre-printed card materials are used and all card materials come together only inside the factory, eliminating the possibility of thieves obtaining "blank" card materials and attempting to manufacture fake voter ID cards. Because of these extensive security measures, not one of the 25 million voter credentials produced to date has been lost or unaccounted for.
In the unlikely event the main production facility is compromised or disabled, Digimarc has a second, secret backup facility - called a "hot" backup - that can be up and running in a matter of hours, ensuring no break in card production.
Secure Identity Credentials
Digimarc has 50+ years of experience in material science and card construction, enabling the company to produce secure identity credentials that meet strict and exacting customer specifications. The Mexico voter ID is made of highly durable card materials and is printed using an ink-based technology that is not used by any other factory. The information on the ID includes a digital photo, signature, address, and fingerprint. To accommodate the signature and fingerprint, the card is constructed with an "open back flap" that allows the citizen (in the presence of an IFE official) to add this information before the laminate is sealed. Other security features on the card include:
- Micro-printing - this feature, commonly found on national currencies, complicates any attempt at photocopying because of the resolution required to recreate it. Often, deliberate misspelled words are incorporated into the micro-printing as an additional covert security feature.
- Ultraviolet Ink - an invisible, covert, anti-counterfeit security feature that is integrated into the text and/or images on the card. It becomes visible only when an ultraviolet light is used to illuminate the card.
The issuance process for the Mexico voter ID follows a strict procedure to ensure the authenticity of the card as a secure ID credential:
- Citizens visit one of 300 IFE issuing offices and apply for a voter ID.
- The citizen information (name, address, picture, etc) is entered into the IFE computer and is subsequently sent to a central computer for verification of the information presented.
- Upon verification, the citizen's "record" is included in a production order to the Digimarc factory.
- The finished identity document (with the open back flap) is delivered to the appropriate IFE office for distribution to the citizen.
- Citizen must return to the issuing office, where his/her identity is verified.
- In the presence of an IFE official, the citizen signs the credential and places his/her fingerprint in the space allotted under the open flap.
- The flap is sealed and the voter ID is released to the citizen.
To ensure that every citizen who is eligible to vote can register to vote, the Mexico voter ID card is free to citizens.