Unique views on presidential vote, hard questions on poll process

But let's not be too harsh. After all, there was the simple, routine matter of the presidential election result announcement, except that nothing presidential in Kenya is simple or routine. Hence, our dramatic week. Hours of waiting sprinkled with songs and fisticuffs. One IEBC announcement disowning the results; another announcing them.

In short order, William Ruto was declared president-elect, Raila Odinga said No, a divided IEBC exchanged unpleasantries and then eight petitions in the Supreme Court. Kenyans on Twitter have been on absolute fire.

A popular post suggests that we were political analysts during election week, mathematicians last week and lawyers this week. Let's develop this thought. Not on 0.01 per cent or arguments before the Supreme Court. Instead, two angles to the presidential vote result; "top-down" and "bottom-up".

The "top-down" way to look at the presidential election is to explore the data in the results. Fortunately, IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati provided a signed three-page statement, so we analyse this because we have no alternative data or facts.

The results put Dr Ruto at 7,176,141 votes (50.49%) against Mr Odinga's 6,942,930 votes (48.85%) with the balance of 93,956 votes shared between Messrs Mwaure and Wajackoyah to give a corrected total of 14,213,027 votes.

Corrected because the statement's total of 14,213,137 votes includes a minor error of 110 votes accounted for by mis-cast county totals for West Pokot (173,705 instead of 173,605 votes) and Kilifi (285,496 instead of 285,486 votes). We know there were 113,614 rejected ballots - so a total of 14,326,641 votes were cast - basically, a reject rate of about one in every 126 ballots.

Here is some data to quietly contemplate, ignoring the 10,000-plus diaspora vote that went Raila's way on a 12:7 split.

As required by the Constitution, Ruto attained at least 25 per cent of the vote in 39 out of 47 counties, while Raila achieved this benchmark in 34. At a plus-50 per cent level, Raila "won" 27 counties against Ruto's 20. Simply, the breadth of Raila's vote contrasts with the depth of Ruto's. But we are not analysing strategy here, just the numbers.

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati (centre) addresses aspirants at the Bomas of Kenya on August 22, 2022. [File, Standard]

Ideally, this goes back to source data, from polling station to constituency, county or national tallying centre. Or as a colleague succinctly puts it "from the voter to the vote to the announcement".

This is impractical in an article of this space, so we adopt the "voter-centric" process view favoured by this column. The task here is to explore the processes that led to the results; basically questions before answers. We start at the beginning.

To repeat, voting starts from identification as a Kenyan. The National Registration Bureau says we have 29.6 million IDs in circulation; Kenya National Bureau of Statistics says we are roughly 27.8 million adults. We know that many IDs are in disuse, while many adults are not registered. So, the first question asks about efforts to establish a voter base through seamless identification.

As we did last week, we move to voter registration. At 22.1 million registered voters, why do we fall short of supporting citizens in securing their voting franchise? Let's call these first two questions the working baselines for an inclusive election from a citizen participation perspective.

An important new question to be answered here is the state of the voter register. By all accounts, we had 22.1 million registered voters, the register was audited and discrepancies identified, yet we still ended up with 22.1 million registered voters. What happened to audit findings on deceased voters, duplicate records and invalid registrations, which added up to at least one million records to be fixed in the final register? Simply, how clean was the voter register?

Now we get into the meat of things; voting, counting, tallying and results. Here is where the questions flow freely. Is there a full and ready accounting for the 132 million high-security ballot papers that were printed? What data is available for audit from the 55,100 KIEMS kits that were distributed to our 46,229 polling stations? Can all 14 million plus biometric registrations be matched with the quantum of ballot paper issues in a way that explains how many voted for which electoral position? Same question for the forms 32 to account for all manual voting.

Stepping forward into results, what do the numbers in the A series of forms - from 34 to 39 - tell us about the claimed unusual voting patterns in which not everybody voted for everyone? What of the flow of this A series of documents to the respective B, C and D series, not simply for Form 34 for the presidency, but corresponding forms for MP, MCA, governor, senator and woman reps? Is a process assessment complete without a cyber-audit of data/document flows from stations to central servers to tallying centres and the public portal?

That's before the physicality of party agent difficulties and ballot paper shenanigans. This process view is not pretty, but it helps us reflect on the election in a different way. It might get us to understand the inputs to the results. Or it might not. Mostly, what we have are two reflections - "top-down" and "bottom-up". But, as I said, this is not about certain court cases at the Supreme Court.

The writer is a management consultant