A Kenyan delegation Thursday toured the Dubai-based company that was due last night to complete printing presidential ballot papers with added security features.
The ballot papers are expected in the country in two consignments on chartered cargo planes on Monday and Tuesday ahead of the August 8 election.
Thursday’s visit to Al Ghurair came a week after the Court of Appeal gave it the green light to print ballot papers for the presidential vote, following a successful appeal by Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
The visit was to foster transparency and help nurture confidence, given the controversy that dogged the selection of Al Ghurair, which had been rejected by the Opposition on claims the award of the tender was questionable.
At the Dubai factory, the Kenyan delegation was briefed in the boardroom on the progress of the printing before embarking on a tour of the factory.
The process begins with designing an artwork using information provided by the IEBC. It is then forwarded to the printer as two IEBC staff help in proofreading.
After the printing, the papers are taken to the next stage where they are allocated serial numbers.
Yesterday, officials explained that besides printing one ballot paper for each of the 19.6 million registered voters, only an extra 1 per cent, about 196,000, additional presidential ballot papers, will be printed.
These will be distributed across all the 40,833 polling stations for any voter with a justifiable and genuine reason for a replacement. The assurance about the limited excess ballots was to dispel any fears of ballot stuffing.
The delegation was taken through new security features introduced on the presidential ballot papers.
Unlike in the past, the ballots will have features that will make it almost impossible to duplicate or prone to ballot stuffing.
The ballot paper specifications will include Ultraviolet (UV) features; special marks that can only be seen using UV light, will be embossed, have a micro text, tapered serialisation, water mark, anti-copy features and also contain what is termed as Guilloche security patterns.
Apart from the feasible serial number appearing in every ballot paper, there is a similar number that can only be seen using UV light, just like the one that appears on currency.
These features will not be applied in ballots for the other five elective seats, according to the electoral agency.
“This year there will be more security features in the presidential ballot as opposed to the other elections,” Commissioner Roselyne Akombe said at the Al Ghurair Printing & Publishing LLC, which was founded in 1978.
The ballot papers will be in a booklet containing 50 pages, each with a cover paper containing the manufacturer’s name, registered trademark, number of ballot papers, the serial number of the first and last ballot paper, year of issue and batch number.
Each of the 40,833 polling stations shall have its own unique serial numbers with the commission saying it will print only 1 per cent extra number of ballot papers per station.
The booklets will be packaged together with a poll register containing only names of that station, and will contain a barcode that will be used by the Kenya Integrated Elections Management System (KIEMS) to open polling.
This means that about 196,000, being 10 per cent of the 19.6 million registered voters, of extra presidential ballot papers will be printed and distributed across all the polling stations.
There have been claims that Al Ghurair has agreed to print an extra two million ballot papers, but the IEBC says that cannot happen.
“The regulations passed by Parliament only allowed the printing of an extra 1 per cent number of ballot papers per polling station to cater for those who may spoil ballot papers and require replacement,” Commissioner Paul Kurgat explained.
“We will complete the printing process tonight and packaging the papers. They shall be dispatched to the airport on 29th since they are required at least two days in advance for clearance and custom protocols before the first batch of charted flight arrives in Nairobi on 31st. The second will arrive the next day on 1st August,” Lakshimanan Ganapathy, general manager Al Ghurair said.
From Nairobi, the ballot papers will start leaving to each of the 290 constituencies by next weekend, with those headed to insecurity-prone areas of Mandera, Garissa, Wajir, Lamu and Tana River being delivered by air.
The commission has sealed a possible loophole that could allow ‘dead’ voters to cast their ballot on August 8 by doing away with the manual crossing of a voter’s name on the printed register.
The decision was reached this week at a meeting held in Nairobi. It was agreed that since voters will have been identified using the KIEMS machine, there will be no need to cross out their names.
The agency has already informed all presiding officers of this requirement, with the 5,400 names of persons without biometrics being made available in another register.
On polling day, the clerks will not be allowed to open the printed register and will only use the barcode printed on the cover page to open the biometric register.
“We will not be closing the names of voters since that has already been recorded by the kit,” Kurgat, who together with Akombe was in Dubai to inspect the process, said.
Other than journalists and IEBC officials, the team included representatives of the inter-religious council. Presidential candidate Ekuru Aukot was represented by Bill Kagaia while Japhet Kaluyu was represented by his running mate.
Jubilee Secretary General Raphael Tuju travelled with the group on Wednesday but was not at the factory on Thursday.