Group raises the red flag over low voter education

Voters queue during a by-election in Homa Bay. [Photo: File, Standard]

The modest scope and depth of voter education in the country as it hurtles to the August 8 poll has added to fears of a less credible poll, observers have warned.

Compounding the worry is the belatedly passed electoral laws which changed electoral operations as well as the tradition of recruiting agents closer to the poll date.

The latest figures unveiled by the Election Observer Group (Elog) show that the IEBC voter education drive stands at 56 per cent, from a high of 80 per cent during the months of May and June when the mass voter registration and verification drives took place. In its report, Elog says the voter education efforts are “thinly spread across the country” and generally “modest.” Elog relies on 290 of its long term observers in each constituency to make its electoral assessments.

“The fact of the matter is that about 40 per cent of eligible Kenyans have not benefited from voter education from the body mandated by law to do so. This is a significant number,” Elog national coordinator Mule Musau told the Sunday Standard. According to the group, the voter education scope must necessarily be 100 per cent: “We haven’t even gone deeper onto the quality and coverage of the education because that’s a different matter altogether.”

These facts are not lost on IEBC which readily agrees that voter education has not been 100 per cent partly due to limited funding, late changes in law and unpredictability of donors among other issues.

“Because of resource limitations, voter education in the immediate past has been based on our main events as a commission. If you check the Elog graphs you will notice that voter education was an all-time high over the period we undertook mass registration of voters and at the verification period,” IEBC director of voter education Rasi Masudi told Sunday Standard.

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Mr Masudi said over the two periods, the commission engaged 2,900 voter educators, two per ward to directly engage voters on what is expected of them in the electoral period.

He said unlike other mediums like publications, adverts, printouts or sponsored promos, the 2,900 voter educators proved more effective because they engaged directly with voters and were able to receive feedback. In the current financial year, IEBC allocated Sh1.4 billion to civic and voter education. The amount was also to be used in stakeholder engagements, publicity, and development of voter education curriculum among other functions domiciled under the directorate of voter education.

In the previous electoral cycles, IEBC has been supported in voter education by a strong presence of well-funded NGOs in the fields among them Institute for Education in Democracy. However, with Jubilee administration’s tougher regulations on the NGO sector and sour relations with donors, which traditionally supplemented IEBC, the organisations’ activities have slumped.

So far the commission has accredited between 150 and 200 community-based organisations to offer voter education in counties.

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