Minimum legal and technological changes that can ensure a free and fair 2017 General Elections in Kenya

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  • 5 years ago
  • Posted: May 9, 2016 at 3:25 pm

The second demonstrations against IEBC organized by CORD is ongoing. The agenda for the demonstrations that are meant to happen every Monday is to force IEBC Commissioners out of office before the 2017 General Elections in Kenya but as I showed elsewhere, demanding for the IEBC Commissioners to get out of office will achieve nothing. I do understand that in addition to demanding for IEBC Commissioners to quit office, CORD is also pushing for some minimum amendments in the elections laws that they think will ensure a free and fair 2017 General Elections in Kenya, part of which includes suggestions that an agreement similar to the 1997 IPPG consensus be implemented.

The changes that CORD is looking for targets individuals or human persons – persons that have biases, weaknesses and political interests. As I argued in the previous article, there is no way we can expect a free and fair general elections simply by changing people. As Philosophers including those who penned down some of the books in the Bible noted, human beings are generally self centered, greedy and manipulatable. If the Government is able to influence the current commissioners in one way or another, then it doesn’t matter who takes the job as an IEBC Commissioner as him too will likely succumb to political manipulations and threats. What CORD should push for therefore are minimum changes that will ensure foolproof electoral process before the 2017 general elections in Kenya – and these changes revolve around proper and adequate use of technology in the entire electoral process.

In an interview with Radio France International, I was asked whether IEBC has implemented any meaningful reforms since 2013 General Elections in Kenya, a question that got me thinking for a second or two. Honestly there haven’t been any meaningful reforms one would expect from an unbiased and independent electoral body. There haven’t been any bills pushed by IEBC in parliament that would iron out the issues that were pointed out after the 2013 elections. There haven’t been reforms to ensure that technology failures in the magnitude witnessed during the 2013 elections never recur. The reforms we have been treated to however, if the Malindi and Kericho bi-elections are anything to go by, are very insignificant – and if this country goes to another general elections with the current system, no matter what the IEBC says, we will be treated to another shum elections, elections that are highly likely to favour the political powers that be.

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The law should trust technology before the 2017 General Elections in Kenya

To avoid a chaotic 2017 General Elections in Kenya, I really do believe that one particular legal change ought to be implemented. When it comes to results transmission, the current legal process treats results transmitted via technological systems as provisional – and that the final authentic results are those transmitted via the manual form 16A and form 35. For some reason, our legal system has a distrust for technology and this should change. Kenya being a technology leader in sub-saharan Africa, a country that has smoothly implemented mobile money transfer services with very little setback, should be able to implement technology as the only avenue voters registration, voting, vote tallying, and results transmission.

The change in the law therefore should be such that the election laws provide that the voting system is 100% electronic and that the final results are those that are transmitted and tallied via electronic means. The law can further state that such the authenticity of the electronic voting, results transmission and tallying system will be verified by all political parties, and that upon completion of the results tallying, then all logs of all computers and other electronic devices used by the IEBC will be availed to all the parties within one hour after the last vote has been cast.

Other than the legal changes, technological changes can also be pushed to ensure that voting is done only via electronic means that at every polling station voting booths are fitted with touchpads from where voters easily select their candidates. Worries that voters can vote more than once can easily be locked out when each voter is required to input a password/pin, authentic himself using fingerprints, provide a registered national ID number, a registered phone number, and a voter’s registration number before accessing the voting touchpad. Once authenticated, the voter can then vote by choosing his/her preferred candidate, then once he or she has logged out then there is no window for logging back into the system until the next elections.

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Many others have supported the implementation of 100% voting system including a friend who identified the following benefits of electronic voting system:

  1. Results are instantaneous
  2. No manual tallying required
  3. More accurate as the system will eliminate genuine and deliberate human errors during tallying process
  4. No provision for spoilt vote- making every vote count
  5. It is highly cost effective as the system will eliminate the need for large number of clerks, returning officers, and even commissioners. Someone has even estimated Ksh.100 million for an entire general election.
  6. Finally the results are quickly verifiable. Under the current system, it has taken IEBC more than 3 years to release the audit report on last general election. With a 100% electronic voting system, a fully audited report can be done within days after a general elections.

In the article I have the right not to vote in 2017, I argued that unless a foolproof electronic voting system is implemented, then voting in the 2017 General Elections will be a waste of time. This is why I do not support the push by CORD to evict IEBC Commissioners, as, if the next general elections are conducted under a technologically foolproof 100% electronic voting system, then I will not waste time in a long queue to cast my vote in a rigged system.

I do realize that we have 455 days before the 2017 General Elections in Kenya and some may argue that we do not have sufficient time to implement the legal framework required and technological systems to ensure 100% voting process. However, given that electronic voting has been implemented in bi-elections prior to 2013 general elections, during the 2013 general elections and in bi-elections after the 2013 general elections, it is reasonable to assume that the IEBC is over 50% ready to implement a 100% electronic voting process. The remaining 50% that require the purchase and implementation of the voting booths in each voting centre can be done within the next one year, and this will leave the IEBC with three months to test the systems and iron out any issues that may arise.

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