The credibility of any electoral process is judged by the level of transparency, information sharing and involvement of all stakeholders in the process.
From July 27th to 30th, a team of 20 representatives from the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya, five presidential candidates, the Political Parties Liaison Committee, the Electoral Observation Group (ELOG), the media and IEBC officials worked from the Al Ghurair Printing Press in Dubai to ensure due diligence in the production of presidential ballot papers.
As many of the members attested, all concerns raised were addressed “with speed” but even with the confidence expressed by the team on the integrity of the process, there has been a lot of misinformation around printing of extra ballot papers.
The Commission was the first to inform Kenyans that as part of the regulations, we are required to print an extra one percentage of ballot papers for each elective positions, not just for the presidential race. This is because, the law provides for a voter who spoils a ballot to be given new ones up to two, translating to three ballot papers in case of mistakes.
This obviously is before the voter places the ballot in the box. In the polling day diary, and in the presence of agents, the presiding officer records this information.
IEBC also been clear that it is not only the one percentage of ballot papers we have, purely due to administrative reasons. Each ballot paper booklet is printed in sets of 50. This means that for Pumwani Primary School polling station, for instance, there are 319 registered voters, if you add the 1% provision in law, you will have 322 ballot papers. However as the booklets are printed in sets of 50s, if you round off 322 to the nearest 50 you will have 350 ballot papers. This information per polling station has been provided on our website, another novel initiative by the Commission.
There are concerns that extra or foreign ballot papers will make their way to the ballot boxes or be used in other polling stations. There are six reasons why such a scenario would not happen:
First, unlike 2013, the ballot papers and result forms have been customized per polling station that it is not possible to use ballot material not meant for the polling station.
Second, at the opening of the polling station, the presiding officers will show party agents the number of ballot papers issued and record them in the polling day diary, complete with the unique serial numbers. At the end of polling, the presiding officer will record the number of unused ballot papers and provide the same to the agents.
Third, at three-hour intervals throughout polling day, the presiding officers will report to the returning officer the number of ballots issued and IEBC will track this against the voter turn-out at that particular time. Any inconsistencies will be detected immediately and action taken against the presiding officers, in case of electoral offences.
Fourth, the KIEMS gadgets cannot allow presiding officers to transmit more results than the number of registered voters in a polling station. This ensures that there is no ballot stuffing at any point and that any politician attempting to manipulate the system only stands to fail.
Fifth, the regulations are clear that the Commission will annul results from any polling station that has more than the number of registered voters. This means that even in the worst case scenario of the failure of KIEMS, ballot stuffing is mitigated against.
Lastly, the agents of each party or candidate have a responsibility to ensure that these actions do not take place. As Kenyans call on the Commission to ensure free and fair elections, it is important that we hold accountable agents and observers in each polling station and urge them to carry out their part of responsibility with utmost professionalism.
The writer Dr Roselyn Akombe Kwamboka is an IEBC Commmissioner.