Kenya Has Some Of The Most Advanced Election Tech In Place, But Will It Be Enough To Fix The Electoral Process? This is the big question as we steadily approach the “BIG DAY”.
Elections in African countries usually present a milestone beyond which countries either strengthen their democratic credentials or become failed states. In most countries the election processes are usually marred by either perceived or blatant election malpractices thus leading to prolonged civil unrest.
There are numerous cases across the continent but notably the horror which was sort of a massacre leaving more than 1,500 dead, 3,000 innocent women raped, and 300,000 people left internally displaced after the 2007 Kenyan general election is one which shocked the world as a whole and technology was called upon in matters electoral for future purposes.
People were unhappy with the outcome which saw Mwai Kibaki of the incumbent Party of National Unity being declared the winner ahead of Raila Odinga and his Orange Democratic Movement. Many disputed the final tally.
To curb such occurrences in the future the Kriegler commission was setup to investigate what really went wrong. It came up with several brave and damning revelations. These included instances of double voter registration, widespread impersonation and ballot stuffing. It concluded that, as a result, it was impossible to know who actually won the election.
The Kriegler report recommended a number of technological fixes to address some of the vulnerabilities inherent in the manual process. These included biometric voter registration, electronic voter identification and a results transmission system.
The Kenyan government and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission acted on the recommendations and elections electronic systems had been put in place by the time of the 2013 poll. But it wasn’t all plain sailing. There were system failures which led to another contested outcome. This was finally settled by the Supreme Court.
As Kenya gears up for the next poll in August, questions are being asked about how well prepared the country is this time round. The issue has become a particularly hot topic in the wake of the government’s decision to allow for a backup manual system to kick in if the technology fails again.
This has raised concerns that the government will pre-emptively switch to the manual system raising the possibility that the vote will be rigged.
Kenya now has some of the most advanced election technology in place. This includes a biometric voter registration process which involves capturing biological features such as the fingerprints of prospective voters. This means that at the end of voter registration the election body can electronically audit the records, picking out and deleting duplicates.
Biometric features captured during voter registration are also used on election day to ensure that those voting are indeed those who registered eliminating “ghost-voter” problem as the electronic voter identification equipment keeps a tally of the registered voters who actually turn up to vote.
It also eliminates the threat of vote manipulation by requiring voters to impress their fingerprints on specialized equipment which highlights inconsistencies between the electronic and manual tallies.
The final piece of technology recommended by Kriegler – the results transmission system – ensures that voting numbers from polling stations are not changed before they reach the tallying centers. To avoid changes in the figures approved at the polling station, the presiding officer at each station is expected to transmit the numbers electronically through a secure mobile phone. As such, the numbers are counted electronically in real-time as they stream into the tallying centers.
The results transmission system has the added advantage of preventing fraudsters from delaying the announcement of results so as to fiddle with the numbers to meet the magical 50%+1 threshold.
The introduction of these technologies means that Kenya is now in a position to minimize election fraud and to guarantee a credible electoral process.
But concerns are still high on what system will be put in place in the event of technological failure.
Will Kenya’s 2017 election process revert to pre-2007 status? Only time will tell whether Kenya has indeed become a mature democratic state or whether it will join the league of failed states.