IEBC sued for scrapping manual register

IEBC Commissioners during a past press briefing at the Bomas of Kenya. [Samson Wire, Standard]

Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has been sued over its decision not to use the manual register during the August 9 General Election.

A week ago, IEBC announced it would only rely on its digital register to identify the 22.1 million voters but it is being accused of bias and failure to seek comments from the public.

Seven lobby groups have moved to the High Court seeking to compel the Wafula Chebukati-led commission to use both manual and digital registers.

The petitioners are Kenya Human Rights Commission, Katiba Institute, Kenyan Chapter of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)-Kenya, Haki Yetu, Inuka Kenya Ni Sisi, Africa Centre For Open Governance (Africog) and Constitution and Reform Education Consortium.

Their lawyer Fidelis Limo argued that IEBC cannot guarantee that its electoral technology will not fail on August 9. According to her, the only guaranteed back-up is a manual register that should correspond with the data in Kenya Integrated Election Management System (KIEMS) kits.

“The second respondent (IEBC) arrived at the afore-stated administrative decision in clear violation of the provisions of the law and in particular Section 44A of the Elections Act which provides for provision of a complementary system of voter identification using the manual register of voters,” argued Limo.

The lobby groups argue IEBC has to-date failed to comply with the 2017 Supreme Court judgment requiring it to ensure all polling stations are connected to a 3G/4G network.

Approximately 2.5 million voters had to rely on the physical register in the 2017 General Election after verification of their details failed due to poor quality of their fingerprints, exposure of KIEMS kits to weather elements and technical failure of some kits.

According to the court documents, IEBC admitted that at least 1,111 polling stations lack 3G mobile network coverage.

“Further to the decision of the Supreme Court in the 2017 Presidential Petition No 1 of 2017, the first and second respondents have not taken any measures to guarantee that there is a working and reliable 3G/4G network connectivity and that technology shall not fail,” said Limo. “The first and second respondents have not implemented the 2017 Supreme Court judgment at all.”

According to the civil society groups, the kits can only function when connected to a reliable network. At the same time, the identification of a voter can only be done using either a fingerprint or through the alphanumeric search.

The petitioners say that fingerprint identification cannot work for voters with distorted fingermarks and or those who have no fingers.

According to documents filed before the High Court yesterday, IEBC has not provided any other way of identifying the voter such as using the iris or a voice.

The second option entails keying in the name and the identification card or a passport of a registered voter.

The lobby groups argue that the kits are prone to malfunctioning or failure of system to load data.

“In the event of failure to identify a voter using the KIEMS kit due to the foregoing reasons, then the presiding officer must resort to the manual register of voters to identify the voter and guarantee the voter’s right to participate in the general elections,” the groups said in court documents.

They also said that election stakeholders left Bomas of Kenya without an assurance that IEBC had proper network system.

According to them, the stimulation programme failed and left the stakeholders with doubts whether an all-digital platform would work.