Some Polling Stations in Kiambu, Murang’a and Kisumu Have Zero Mobile Network Coverage for Transmission of Election Results

KIEMS kit

The law requires the returning officer to transmit results electronically to the national tallying centre in Nairobi, and if there is no network, as it is at the moment in some areas, then it means the officer cannot move to a nearby place with network or the nearest polling station with the network coverage to declare the results since they will be committing illegalities-Christine Owiye IEBC Director for Legal Affairs

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) last week declared that approximately 11,000 polling stations lack 3G mobile network coverage, which may jeopardize the electronic transmission of results in the August elections.

All polling stations are spread throughout the country in about 34 counties, meaning that the biometric voter identification and transmission of result devices will be useless in those areas. Ironically, it is the same IEBC through its chairman Wafula Chebukati who publicly declared that the Commission will exclusively rely on the KIEMs kits for voter identification and transmission of results during this year’s election. 

IEBC Director for Legal Affairs Christine Owiye urged MPs to support an amendment to the Elections Bill that would allow for a reciprocal method of transmitting results during a hearing with the Justice & Legal Affairs Committee (JLAC) a week ago. In a report that has since been leaked to the media, Ms Owiye said: “The law requires the returning officer to transmit results electronically to the national tallying centre in Nairobi, and if there is no network, as it is at the moment in some areas, then it means the officer cannot move to a nearby place with network or the nearest polling station with the network coverage to declare the results since they will be committing illegalities. We need a complementary system.”

There is also the critical question of thousands of voters across the country with physical challenges like having no fingers to provide the necessary fingerprint identifications through the gadgets before the affected persons can cast their votes – this renders a total reliance on the KIEMS gadgets for voters to exercise their constitutional right to vote

It is that complementary system, particularly the use of manual voter registers that Mr Chebukati has been against arguing that the KIEMS kits that will be used this time round are perfect. A stand that forced the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Presidential candidate Raila Odinga to insist that there must be a fallback option, “if there are no manual voters registers then there will be no general elections.”

Apart from the lack of appropriate network coverage, there is also the critical question of thousands of voters across the country with physical challenges like having no fingers to provide the necessary fingerprint identifications through the gadgets before the affected persons can cast their votes – this renders a total reliance on the KIEMS gadgets for voters to exercise their constitutional right to vote. The Amendment Bill, which was first read on the floor of the National Assembly in February this year, seeks to approve a complementary mechanism for voter identification and results transmission.

It has so far emerged that some of the worst affected stations are found in Kiambu, Murang’a and Kisumu counties among many others across the country. During the 2017 General Election, IEBC faced similar challenges, with 27% of the polling stations then, lacking the 3G or 4G network coverage forcing IEBC officials in many polling stations to abandon the gadgets and reverted to manual registers to conduct the elections.

Editor’s note: The High Court on Wednesday directed the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to provide a manual register during the August 9, 2022 General Election. Justice Thande Mugure of the Milimani Law Courts in Nairobi said the manual register will complement the electronic voter-identification register.

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