A secured voter register key to transparent, verifiable elections

The accuracy of the voter register is a key element in ensuring eligible voters enjoy the right to elect their leaders. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

It is refreshing to hear that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has contracted a reputable audit firm, KPMG, to clean up the voter register ahead of the August 9 General Election.

The decision to update the voter roll is acceptable in the sense that credible elections are characterised by inclusiveness, transparency, accountability and competitiveness. It is only through a valid voter register that IEBC could uphold electoral integrity.

Transparent and verifiable elections can be held at best when each move is open to scrutiny for voters to independently corroborate whether the process is honestly and accurately conducted – this includes appraising the voter registration exercise and auditing the voter roll.

The accuracy of the voter register is a key element in ensuring eligible voters enjoy the right to elect their leaders. Moreover, a clear and precise voter roll guards against multiple voting. A voter register that is not updated is a threat to the integrity of the elections as it introduces inaccuracies in the recording, maintenance and tallying of votes. More seriously, a foggy register alters or destroys evidence necessary to assist in auditing and verifying the correct election results, thus inviting fraud.

Thus IEBC is duty-bound to maintain political neutrality, ensuring that there are no impediments in updating the voter register. Voters should not be unfairly purged under the guise of voter register “clean-up”. IEBC is constrained to ensure the register clean-up process doesn’t discriminate against any region, tribe or a segment of population perceived to be in the “opposition” as this could lead to disenfranchising eligible voters.

Voter purges are essential and necessary when done responsibly – but when the exercise is conducted without care, the process could easily knock eligible voters off the register enmasse. In past elections many voters discovered they were no longer listed only when they arrived at the polling stations, as a result they could not vote.

Ideally, honest and democratic polls largely depend on accurate voter roll – the Constitution, IEBC Act and Elections Act emphasise that election records must be accurate and current, while the entire electoral process must be clean and above reproach. Credible elections begin with accurate voter registration records that allow officials to discern who can and who cannot vote. This includes removing names of voters who have died or are no longer citizens.

The electoral body should be crystal clear on matters of voter transfer – voters who wish to change their polling stations should be allowed to move before the Commission closes the window of new voters and transfers. This will give KPMG room to conduct valid and acceptable audit.

Since voting in Kenya is not compulsory, IEBC should conduct rigorous voter education to sensitise the public on their right to participate in elections. Massive voter turnout is necessary in view of the fact that this is a transition election.

The electoral body should consider the widely proposed suggestion that ballots be cast via the internet as it will be convenient both to voters and IEBC, and rightly make the election exercise less expensive, smooth and devoid of fraud.

The writer is a member of parliamentary committees on Education and Labour