Ballot papers mix up in Rongai as voting kicks off in South and Central Rift region

An empty space between ballot boxes at Mercy Njeri Primary School polling station in Rongai constituency where the parliamentary election was suspended indefinitely after ballot papers were mixed up with those of Kuresoi North constituency. [Harun Wathari, Standard]

Voters in the South and Central Rift region streamed into polling stations across the eight counties to cast their ballots as delays and mixed-up ballot papers were reported in the Rongai constituency, Nakuru County.

More than 3.4 million votes in Nakuru, Bomet, Kericho, Baringo, Narok, Samburu, Laikipia and Nyandarua counties cast their votes in a region that will be key to the results of the presidential vote.

Confusion is looming among voters in Rongai Constituency, Nakuru County after ballot papers for the parliamentary seat went missing.

The independent electoral and boundaries commission (IEBC) has, however, allowed for voting of other positions to continue.

Although voters have turned up at the polling station, some could be heard contemplating avoiding the entire exercise.

Isaac Mbote, a voter at Mercy Njeri Primary School said they were shocked to learn that the papers were missing.

"I came early knowing that I will vote once for all the candidates. It came as a surprise that there are no MP ballot papers," said Mbote.

He added that the IEBC had not disclosed to them why the materials were missing.

"The IEBC had said that they were fully prepared but this is discouraging. This will force us to have another day for the single position," said Mbote.

Samwel Sang, another voter in the constituency said that this may affect the outcomes of the MP elections if held separately.

"The turnout for the parliamentary seat on its own is likely to be lower since people will be engaged elsewhere. We hoped the IEBC would resolve this matter today," said Sang.

Nakuru County Returning Officer Joseph Mele said that the IEBC would issue a statement on the matter during the day.

"It is true we don't have voting materials for Rongai MP seat. We urge the voters to remain calm. Voting for other positions is ongoing. The IEBC headquarters will pronounce itself on this shortly," said Mele

Voting for the Rongai parliamentary seat was suspended indefinitely.

 However, voting started in Nakuru County with voters turning up at polling stations as early as 4am.

At the Ngomongo polling station in Bahati which has 907 registered voters, the first voter cast Ann Wanjiku dropped her ballot in the boxes at 6:12am.

"I woke up at 4am and I was here by 5am. As a Christian and patriot, I feel duty bound to vote," said Wanjiku.

She was minutes later joined by Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika who also votes at the same station.

"I am delighted to participate in this process. It has been a long and winding journey but the day is here with us," said Kihika.

She lauded the voters for turning up early saying that this will give them an opportunity to cast their ballots early.

"I am confident the early and high turnout will allow for the exercise to be concluded early enough. It is my plea for the voters in Nakuru and across Kenya to be calm," said Kihika.

The senator was accompanied by her mother Alice Mukuhi Kihika and her husband Sam Mburu.

Nakuru County has a total of 1,054,856 registered voters spread across eleven constituencies.

The gubernatorial race has six candidates among them the incumbent governor Lee Kinyanjui(Jubilee), Senator Susan Kihika(UDA), James Mungai(Independent), Stanley Karanja(Independent), Elijah Chege(Independent) and Munyua Waiyaki(Independent.

Governor Kinyanjui is seeking his second term in office.

Voting in Naivasha was marked by low turnout in various polling stations visited.

Unlike in 2013 when long queues marked polling stations, this year things were different with expectations that the numbers could pick up by midday.

There were no hiccups recorded in the constituency that has close to 160,000 registered voters.

In Bomet County, Voting kicked off smoothly in most parts of Bomet County with voters turning out in their numbers.

Long queues were witnessed in most polling stations with no issues being reported.

Polling materials reached polling stations on time with IEBC officials saying they did not experience any transport challenges.

Bomet East MP Beatrice Kones, who was among the first people to cast their votes at Bomet municipal Hall said the process was seamless.

“We are happy the process is going on smoothly and there are no problems that have been recorded in our area,” Kones.

"There is usually a lot of excitement for people to change or retain their choices, depending on their performances and their new manifestos, a reason why many people woke up very early," Mrs Kones said.

There are 376,985 voters expected to take part in the exercise among 853 centers.

Bomet Governor Hillary Barchok is expected to cast his vote later at Kiplabotwa Primary school while CCM leader Isaac Ruto will vote at Chebaraa primary school in Chepalungu at noon.

The voting exercise was delayed by two hours at Kericho GK prison where some of the 59 inmates are expected to cast their votes in the presidential category.

Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission officials and an observer arrived at around 7:30am an hour after members of the press arrived at the correctional facility located within Kericho town.

Sammy Elewan, a Chief Inspector at the prison told the media that he had been instructed by his superiors not to allow them to take the inmates' photos or interview them.

“You can just make observations and write your reports but we are under instruction not to allow any photography or videography,” he said.

At Highlands Primary polling station voters who had turned up to cast their votes as early as 4 have complained of difficulty in acceding their biometric data.

“I took around 20 minutes moving from one stream to the next before I finally managed to point out my name and cast my vote,” said Caroline Cherono.

Nonetheless, voting exercise in most of the other 194 polling stations in the county commenced without hitches.

In Baringo voting started at around 6.10 am. No major hiccups were reported.
At Kabarnet High school returning officers Michael Kosgey and Ken Serem declared the polling centers open.
A spot check by The Standard revealed low voter turnout in most polling stations.

At Tandui Primary polling station, Kigen Moi, Senator Gideon Moi's eldest son was among those who voted.
Gideon is expected to cast his vote at the same polling station.

Kigen said he was happy to have participated in the electoral process. The process he said is historic for the people of Baringo as it's a chance to vote for the prosperity and protection of the County.

He said he was happy to have voted in the polling station.

"I have a personal attachment to the polling station, this is where my grandfather the late Daniel Arap Moi used to come and vote. Two generations later we here doing the same. I hope I have exercised my democratic and civic duties in the same manner he used to do and that my father will do," he said.

He called on the youth to come out and vote.

Baringo County has 281,053 registered voters in the six sub-counties.

Reported by Kennedy Gachuhi, Daniel, Caroline Chebet, Nikko Tanui, Gilbert Kimutai, James Munyeki, Yvonne Chepkwony and Valentine Zablon.

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