IEBC Plans Electronic Voting in 2022 Polls
The IEBC is considering a fully electronic voting process in 2022 to replace the current system, a hybrid of manual and electronic.
Already it plans to send a strong IEBC delegation to India and Brazil, which use the electronic system. It aims to either craft a partnership or come up with a hybrid solution that the commission can use in 2022.
Polling clerkverifi es a voter’sdocument atthe Moi AvenuePrimary Schoolon August 8/ HEZRON NJOROGE
This is one of the ambitious measures Chairman Wafula Chebukati's team wants to introduce in election management to make voting, tallying and results transmission tamper-proof and free from third-party interference.
The commission has come under scathing attack from the opposition on the manner it handled last week's General Election, especially results transmission.
NASA plans to challenge the victory of President Uhuru Kenyatta in the Supreme Court, citing massive irregularities, inconsistencies and hacking. It says its flagbearer Raila Odinga won.
The commission appears to consider electronic voting a cure for the many challenges it faced in the polls.
At a breakfast meeting with media editors on Wednesday, Chebukati confirmed plans to abandon the current hybrid system and fully automate Kenya's election system if possible.
“IEBC might consider electronic voting in 2022, like India and Brazil. This will save the cost of ballot papers, no possible errors, auto tallying and get rid of vendor wars and physical logistical problems,” he said.
The chairman said electronic voting will save costs of printing of paper ballots, reduce errors and get rid of tender wars over boxes, materials and other items that have been a recurrent feature of Kenyan elections.
In this General Election, the IEBC spent Sh2.5 billion to print 120 million ballot papers for all the six positions in 47 counties, prisons and the diaspora.
Ballot-paper tendering caused acrimony between the opposition NASA and IEBC prior before this election.
Yesterday — a week after declaration of presidential results — the commission was still struggling to make available Forms 34A — crucial statutory documents used to tabulate presidential results at the polling stations.
Electronic voting would effectively put Kenya in the same league with the US, UK, Brazil and India — with much bigger populations — where the system has been a success.
If a fully automatic electronic process is not feasible, the IEBC will customise existing KIEMS devices, said chairmanof the electoral agency's ICT committee, Prof Abdi Guliye.
The KIEMS devices used in this year's elections cost Sh4 billion. Upgrading them to a near-complete electronic function is estimated to cost a further Sh5 billion.
There will be no extra costs after modification.
Fifteen years ago the the Indian government commissioned two companies to design a simple electronic voting machine, inexpensive, easy to use, even by illiterate voters, and tamper-proof.
The result is a device that looks like a cross between a computer keyboard and a music synthesiser. Next to each button is the name and symbol of a candidate or party. These are written on slips of paper that can be rearranged. That means unscrupulous politicians couldn't rig the machines at the factory, since they wouldn't know which button would be assigned to which candidate.
Also, the software is embedded, or hard-wired, onto a microprocessor that cannot be reprogrammed. If someone tries to pry open the machine, it automatically shuts down. After much testing, India adopted the equipment for nationwide use this year.
Unlike the machines used in the United States, the Indian machines are not networked. Each one has to be physically carried to a central counting center.
In the current Kenyan scenario, only voter identification and results transmission from polling stations are done electronically. This also happens only in cases with no kits failure.
The actual voting, counting and eventual tallying is a manual process that is susceptible to manipulation.
In the 2013 elections, countrywide mass failure of the devices denied the country an opportunity to experiment with the system, as the IEBC resorted to a manual system, despite protests from the opposition.
Awarding the ballot paper tender and allegations of favouritism led to months of court battles. Many people believed this might have interfered with proper planning by the commission.
In opposition circles, it is widely believed that whoever — in most instances the government — is associated or has links with the ballot paper printing vendor has undue advantage.
This is because they could influence the printing of additional papers to be used in ballot stuffing.
The electronic system would also protect the tallying process, considered to be one area NASA will use in attempting to discredit the presidential results.
On Friday last week, Chebukati declared Kenyatta the winner of the hotly contested election.
It said he garnered 8,203,290 votes against Odinga's 6,762,224 votes.
Raila has refused to accept the results, terming Uhuru's win as computer aided and calling the President "computer generated.
For successful implementation of the ambitious electronic system, the whole country will need 3G for electronic voting.
Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) would as well bring to end the era of Forms 34A and 34B that have turned out to be problematic.
The electronic system has a lifespan of 15 years and, if adopted, could be used in three consecutive General Elections and by-elections.
EVM are also lighter and easier to carry around compared to ballot boxes.
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