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Why you don't have to vote for all six positions

Voters will for the first time choose whether to cast ballots for all the six elective positions or only opt for the ones they prefer.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has changed regulations and it will not be mandatory for a voter to cast all six ballot papers handed to them once they walk into a polling station.

This emerged on Sunday August 7, 2022 during a voting simulation exercise conducted by IEBC. The decision seeks to cure one of the most complicated legal issues that played out at the Supreme Court in 2017 and contributed to the nullification of the presidential results.

According to details provided during the simulation, it is a legal requirement that the voter must be handed the six ballot papers once he/she walks into the polling station.

Once handed the six ballot papers, the voter will be free to vote in any of the six elections, like the presidential election, but will be under no obligation to vote in the remaining five elections.

However, for purposes of accountability, the voter must drop the five remaining ballot papers in the corresponding ballot boxes.

“The purpose is to account for each and every ballot paper,” said Gogo Nguma, the Nairobi County elections manager, who conducted the simulation at Bomas of Kenya, Nairobi.

The law gives voters a choice and they can decide not to vote for other candidates and deposit all the ballots in one box. But the question of what happens where a voter decides not to vote, or only vote in one election, was a major talking point in the 2017 presidential petition, and it is believed largely contributed in the nullification after the commission failed to explain where such unused ballots are deposited.

“The law does not allow the voter to give us the ballots,” said Mr Nguma, adding that such ballots will be counted as rejected in the final tally.

During the Supreme Court hearing, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s lawyers claimed that many voters had opted to vote for the presidential candidate and ignored politicians vying for other positions.

While the lawyers–Ahmnednasir Abdullahi and Fred Ngatia–confirmed that voters received all six ballot papers, they said that voters only marked the presidential ballot leaving five others untouched.

Unmarked ballots

Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu challenged the lawyers to explain where the five unmarked ballot papers were deposited, and how the commission accounted for them.

While the lawyers described the unused ballots as ‘stray’, the court deemed their explanation to be unsatisfactory. Mr Nguma, who made no reference to the 2017 elections, said the decision to address the issue was one way of tackling challenges that had embarrassed the commission and its lawyers.

Yesterday’s simulation provided a peek into the voting process at the polling stations, illustrating an ideal situation and alternative scenarios that may play out in a polling station.

No one without an original national identity card or passport will be allowed to vote. However, those with IDs but whose names will not be found in the Kenya Integrated Election Management System (Kiems) kit and manual register will be allowed to vote.

The voters will have their picture taken while holding their IDs to forestall the possibility of an impostor casting their ballot. This will have to be authenticated by an entry into the Kiems kit by the Presiding Officer using his/her fingerprint.