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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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