Why Kenya should embrace electoral college, US style

Ballot boxes are seen outside the Ruaraka constituency tallying centre at Stima Club on August 11, 2022. [Kelly Ayodi, Standard]

As a country, we have our space at the international table of democratic countries. The just-concluded general election has just confirmed that.

That said, we should have a candid discussion about strengthening our democracy even further. The cons in our presidential elections are too enormous to ignore. We need to change our presidential elections to make them less heated. I suggest we go the US Electoral College System way.

The US Electoral College has many advantages that no serious democratic mind should ignore. The pros in US Electoral College have clear strengths that have made the number of states rise from 13 during the formation of USA to 50. One of the advantages is that the electoral college keeps smaller states relevant in national politics. Imagine a US presidential election with no electoral college. If only the popular vote mattered in the US, candidates would concentrate mostly on densely populated states like New York and Chicago.

The electoral college in the US encourages candidates to pay attention to smaller states and not just seek votes in populous states and cities. It gives smaller states more weight and respect in national political processes. This has made people in the populous Chicago and those in the less populous Wyoming to both feel respected as equal citizens of America.

It is due to this that I find it important that we change our national politics from the popular vote and adopt indirect voting such as the US Electoral College. Let Kenyans vote indirectly for the president and deputy president. Let us discuss whether a vote for a governor means a vote for presidential and deputy presidential candidates of their parties. Let us discuss how our electoral college should be constituted. Doing this will make densely and less densely populated regions attract similar attention and energy from presidential candidates.

The 2013 presidential election gave birth to a new political terminology - ‘the tyranny of numbers. It was a terminology that was interpreted by one of our political gurus, Prof Mutahi Ngunyi, to mean that certain regions that have more numbers than others are more important in determining who wins an election.

Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto only needed to pay more attention to the populous Central Kenya and Rift Valley to win the presidency. The just-concluded presidential election paints a similar picture where some regions have the tyranny of numbers, and hence helps one to win. Kenya Kwanza won elections based on the tyranny of numbers. Where do we place the less populous regions? What are we telling the less populous regions as a nation? That they are important but not very important to make one win an election?  

In order to make Northeastern Kenya attract more attention and energy from candidates the same way, we have the Battle for the Mountain, commonly termed as ‘Climbing the Mountain’, let us end the popular vote and embrace the electoral college. This will give equal chances to residents of less populated regions to present their economic expectations to candidates. We will end up with uniform development and grow uniformly as a nation. We will never have to paint some regions as politically powerful during presidential elections and others as less powerful. Doing so makes us not exploit our potential as a nation.

Today, Wyoming is one of the states with very high human development. Wyoming is doing wonders because the US Electoral College has for years given them a chance to have a candid discussion with candidates. This has exposed her potential and made her grow. Lamu is great, Isiolo is great, Samburu, Tana River and Taita Taveta are all great despite their less population. Let us have an electoral college that will have the populous Nairobi and less populous Lamu attract equal energy from candidates.

For us to grow our democracy, for every corner of our nation to command attention from candidates in national politics, let us bring to an end the popular vote and embrace the electoral college. Your one vote in a populous region and my one vote in a less populous region must attract equal energy and attention from our presidential candidates. This will grow our democracy and country.

Mr Wanda is a Kiswahili and History teacher