Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition party presidential candidate Raila Odinga is questioning IEBC’s decision to disallow use of manual voter registers across the 46,000 polling stations as a complementary mechanism to electronic identification of voters in the august polls.
Through his chief legal advisor Paul Mwangi, Odinga wants the commission Chairman Wafula Chebukati to explain the rationale of his administrative directive and measures taken to ensure that the electronic voter identification system will not collapse, by default or design, and deny the electorate an opportunity to exercise their democratic right at the ballot.
When he received an audit report on the 2022 voter register, Chebukati maintained that manual voter rolls would not be used in the August 9th polls, as a complementary mechanism to electronic identification of voters, through the Kenya Integrated Elections Management System (KIEMS).
“As a result of the 2017 post-election evaluation, most of the malpractices were as a result of the physical voter registers. We believe that using the digital registers will cut down these malpractices where a presiding officer has knowledge of who has not voted, their ID numbers and is therefore able to input their details in the KIEMs kits, allowing malpractices to happen,” he said then.
The decision has prompted Odinga to pose seven questions to Chebukati, 47 days to the polls.
Top among them, Odinga questions Chebukati’s change of heart, after rooting for manual identification of voters and results transmission as a complementary measure in the 2017 general election.
According to Odinga, who was in the 2013 and 2017 presidential races, technology failure on election day is likely.
He terms Chebukati’s directive risky, since it is based on an assumption that the KIEMS kits will work seamlessly.
“What redundancy measures have you designed in case of failure of technology on that day? I ask knowing very well that this has happened before,” lawyer Mwangi submitted to the commission.
IEBC CEO Hussein Marjan responded: “The kits will use SD cards, and in case a kit fails, then we will just be able to replace it with a working kit. All we will need to do is just remove the SD card from the KIEMS kit and insert it in the new one.”
In the run up to the 2017 general election, a three-judge High Court bench ruled that it was not possible for IEBC to conduct an exclusively electronic poll, a verdict that was upheld by the Court of Appeal.
Odinga questioned Chebukati’s interpretation of election regulations, holding that a complementary equipment does not mean a complementary system of identifying voters and transmission of results, as required by the law.
Chebukati’s decision to bar use of physical copies of the voter register would, according to Odinga, be repealing electoral regulations through administrative directives without the input of stakeholders in the August 9th polls.
With recent cases of irregular and abnormal transfer of voters from polling stations without their consent attributed to errors of omission and commission by some IEBC officials, in an audit conducted by KPMG, Odinga is apprehensive that similar infiltration and sabotage could occur on the voter register, leading to a crisis on polling day.
Chebukati promises to convene a session to address issues raised by stakeholders, even as seven civil society organisations moved to court to seek orders quashing his directive.
The 2022 voter register has 22.1 million Kenyans spread across 46,232 polling stations countrywide; more than 5 million eligible citizens failing to enlist themselves as voters.
The register has 11.2 million male and 10.8 million female voters; 8.8 million voters are in the youth category as defined by the Constitution, which is 39.8% of the national voter population.