Leading presidential candidates have deployed enormous resources to protect their votes from possible manipulation in Tuesday's much anticipated General Election.
And even as the electoral commission maintains it has put in place a watertight electronic system to guard against interference with the ballot and transmission of results, the candidates are leaving nothing to chance. Azimio la Umoja presidential candidate Raila Odinga and his main competitor Kenya Kwanza’s William Ruto will go to any length to protect their vote to emerge victorious.
All the four candidates have promised to deploy agents in all polling stations, a logistical nightmare that only the financially endowed can pull off. It will take money to establish a high-tech tallying centre to monitor results as they trickle in from polling stations.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has gazetted 46,229 polling stations. The commission boss Wafula Chebukati said the presidential results declared at the polling stations will be final as the law requires.
Interest in polling stations
Unlike previous general elections, the decision by IEBC to elevate polling stations has triggered an unprecedented interest among presidential candidates who are watching the polling stations with a renewed interest. To ensure tallied votes from the polling stations conform with results that will be forwarded to the national tallying centre, the candidates are investing a fortune.
Already, the DP and his lieutenants have cast doubts on a fair poll, necessitating need to deploy the agents who will have an added role of gathering evidence that can challenge results in court. Apart from deploying agents to all polling stations, Kenya Kwanza has asked supporters to vote and stay put and watch the counting and transmission of results. Yesterday, chief agents of the four presidential candidates were taken through an induction course by the IEBC.
Raila's deputy chief agent Isaiah Kindiki said his team had deployed two agents in each polling station. “We have taken them through rigorous training on how to take care of our vote at the polling station and the morale is good,” Prof Kindiki said.
The training includes teaching the election law touching on voting, what constitutes a stray, spoilt or disputed as well as a cast ballot is. Azimio has also deployed 337 lawyers as chief agents at the constituency and county tallying centres.
“We want people who understand the law at that level to be in charge of tallying centres,” added Kindiki.
Another army of volunteers has been mandated to get people out to vote in what in Azimio parlance is being described GOTV or Get Out The Vote. This mobilisation is predicated on the premise that most of Raila’s votes are lost because many don't vote.
Army of volunteers
"The volunteers will mobilise individuals to come out and vote. This is also part of the voter protection as it involves guarding against a loss of non-appearance,” he added.
Part of these volunteers were displayed when an advert popped asking Raila supporters in Mombasa and whose voting stations are in upcountry places like Kakamega, Busia or Siaya and cannot travel due to some constraints, mainly financial, to call a number from which they will be facilitated if their cases are genuine.
ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru has earned the wrath of the Kenya Kwanza after he declared publicly that he was among those who will go out of his way to protect the vote. Kenya Kwanza has filed a complaint against the CS to the IEBC. Similarly, Azimio has fought hard to force the IEBC to deploy a manual register at the polling stations in opposition of Ruto who argues that it was a recipe for rigging.
The commission, with the support of Kenya Kwanza, had insisted on using the Kiems kit to identify voters at the polling stations. But this was rejected by Raila who argued that ignoring manual register would disefranchise many voters whose details are not in the Kiems kit.
The High Court on Thursday agreed with the Azimio's position and directed IEBC to use a manual register as a backup for voter identification, warning that it was against the law for the commission to conduct an election without a manual register to complement the electronic one.
Uasin Gishu Woman Rep Gladys Shollei, who has lately emerged as Ruto’s strongest agent, argued yesterday that it is near impossible for the presidential results to be manipulated owing to the system the IEBC had deployed.
“It is impossible to manipulate election results with the current system as designed. It has been fortified,” said the MP, pointing out that their side will win in a free and fair poll.
Shollei argued that the focus of Kenya Kwanza team is in the deployment of agents in all the polling stations where the main battle in the presidential race will be waged. The ballot paper has six security features and cannot be photocopied. Agents have been granted unfettered access to the polling stations.
The ballot papers are packed in batches of 50s. Agents will be allowed to take the serial numbers of the ballot papers before the start of voting and share the details with their presidential campaigns teams. At the close of the voting, the agents will further have the right to take stock of the used ballots and pair them against the unused.
Further once the results have been counted, tallied and entered in form 34A, the agents will be required to take pictures and transmit them not to just to their presidential secretariats but also to whoever they want as a display of accountability in the electoral process.
“They are mechanism in the law that we shall relay on to protect our vote,” said Shollei.
“The system fortified and full checking and there is no chance that it can be manipulated. But a lot will depend on the transparency of IEBC.”
And in Kisumu Azimio has come up with adopt-a-polling station initiative to protect the coalition's votes in the poll scheduled for Tuesday. The Saturday Standard has established that the coalition has tasked individual parties to help identify teams of polling agents who will be deployed across polling stations to watch out for any anomalies. The move is a kin to a similar initiate that the former National Super Alliance Coalition adopted in the 2017 poll to help secure Raila's votes.
And while Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leadership expresses confidence to get over 100 per cent voter turnout in the region through the Adopt a polling strategy, sibling rivalry is again rearing its ugly head as parties within the region vow not to put financial muscles on the strategy. They claim the ODM brigade has disrespected them all through the campaign period and even left them out during the coalition's activities and as such it was pointless to invest in the strategy.
The role of the adopters is to finance the process, provider transport for those who are vulnerable and are not able to get to the polling stations to vote. In this arrangement, each well-wisher or even an aspiring or elected leader is expected to identify and adopt a few polling stations to ensure every potential voter in their respective areas vote. The adopter of a polling station works with the local network to mobilize voters to turnout and identify those who may need support usually the sick, pregnant women among others, so that nobody is left behind that they could not vote.
ODM also used the strategy to meet the voter registration targets in their strongholds. ODM chairman John Mbadi said the adopt a polling station strategy will help in voter turnout. But United Democratic Movement governorship candidate in Siaya county Nicholas Gumbo said that they will only be campaigning for Raila by word of mouth. He argued that it is pointless to use funds to mobilise voters for Azimio la Umoja Presidential candidate yet the ODM candidates had made it clear that they do not need them.
Gumbo said: “We are not going an extra mile this time round. They do not think we are adding value to their campaigns and so it is not necessary. The ODM brigade has been on record saying that the Azimio issue ends at Awasi in Kisumu and this has been there way of blocking us from everything,” argued Gumbo.