Smart logistics win elections not just money

A man is lifted in a cart as Deputy President William Ruto addresses residents at Mlango Kubwa in Nairobi on January 12, 2022. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

The 2022 presidential election was a turnout election. In his best ten counties (share of votes cast), the UDA candidate averaged a turnout of 73.3 per cent.

The corresponding figure for the Azimio candidate was 65.8 per cent. For example, in the Azimio best four counties of Homa Bay, Siaya, Kisumu and Migori, more than 590,000 people did not vote.

According to the IEBC, the presidential race was decided by 233,211 votes.

The results have been disputed, a matter for the Supreme Court to adjudicate.

However, it is worth making sense of why Azimio lost a race it seemingly had in the bag – at least according to opinion polls.

Did the flurry of positive polls in the last week depress turnout? Were the pollsters wrong? Was it lack of logistical mobilisation by Azimio in its core areas?

Did Azimio underestimate the potency of UDA’s economic message? Was it fraud at polling stations due to lack of Azimio polling agents?

The simple answer to all these questions is one word: Logistics.

Elections are monumental logistical affairs. To win, candidates must mobilise voters with a compelling message.

They then need to make sure their supporters vote. In parallel, they need to build an infrastructure to monitor the voting, tallying, and relaying of results.

Given that turnout figures are easily observable from KIEMS kits, smart campaigns can allocate effort where it is needed to get better turnout hours before polls close.

After polls close, the same infrastructure can be used to collate figures in real time at polling stations and cross-check against IEBC’s figures relayed to the national tallying centre.

This whole exercise should cost no more than Sh500 million. At first this may sound like an exorbitant campaign outlay.

However, consider that a recent study found that serious gubernatorial candidates spend more than Sh1.8 billion.

Exact figures for the presidential election are hard to come by, but it must be many multiples of that. All to say that smart logistics win elections.

The writer is an Assistant Professor at Georgetown University