Politicians say the system is untested and it needs to be interrogated further. Relying on the electronic voter register without a backup system, in this case, the manual register is courting a disaster
The Chairman of Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Mr Wafula Chebukati says that his agency will exclusively rely on the electronic voter register to verify voters’ IDs on polling day.
The decision has angered politicians from the two main alliances, Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Alliance of Raila Odinga and Kenya Kwanza of William Ruto who have raised a storm accusing the IEBC of playing with fire, they blame the chairman of trying to temper with the National Voter Register only weeks to polling day. Politicians say the system is untested and it needs to be interrogated further. Relying on the electronic voter register without a backup system, in this case, the manual register is courting disaster, they say. During the last general elections, the so-called biometric system turned out to be a complete sham that affected nearly all polling stations across the country, forcing IEBC agents at the polling stations to resort to the manual register.
Thousands of electronic devices failed to properly read the identities of voters who came to cast their votes. That aside, there are burning questions about why the IEBC should station their Central Servers in a foreign country where such a system could easily be exposed to tampering and manipulation, the IEBC servers are stationed in France.
William Ruto’s allies also want the commission to make public any contingency plans put in place by IEBC and assure them that no voter will be turned away due to a system malfunction
These are just some of the most critical issues that Raila Odinga and his closest rival Deputy President William Ruto have rightly pointed out to Mr Chebukati. By the end of last week, Mr Chebukati had reportedly invited all Presidential candidates for a meeting at the exclusive Windsor Country Hotel and Golf Club to discuss the issue. Those invited are DP William Ruto of United Democratic Alliance (UDA), Raila Odinga of Azimio, Prof George Wajackoyah of Roots Party and Mr David Mwaure Waihiga of Agano party. The four were asked to attend in person and not through representatives; they were also allowed to be accompanied by at least five of their supporters.
However, the crux of the matter is the decision made by the IEBC to phase out the use of the physical voter register in the 46,232 polling stations spread across the country and instead rely on the untested electronic identification system which uses fingerprint sensors. Mr Odinga and a group of Civil Society Groups have already protested separately against that decision, arguing that there were no guarantees that the system may not fail this time around as happened during the last elections when the Kenya Integrated Elections Management Systems (Kiems) kits failed. In case of such failure, critics of the system argue that the IEBC has so far not established sufficient contingency measures to ensure that no voter is disenfranchised.
Mr Odinga’s team dispatched a protest letter to the IEBC, demanding answers on how the agency arrived at that decision. William Ruto’s allies also want the commission to make public any contingency plans put in place by IEBC and assure them that no voter will be turned away due to a system malfunction. Civil society groups have argued the decision by the commission to strictly rely on the Kiems as the only mode of voter identification is a violation of the statute and susceptible to massive failures.
They have petitioned the High Court to declare the decree a violation of political rights and want the IEBC compelled to ensure the use of the manual register of voters to avert any risks associated with the electronic system failure.
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