The integrity of the voter register has continued to face questions ahead of the August election even as the electoral commission seeks to start cleaning it up.
However, it is a task that has a long history of controversy and this time may not be different. In January, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) admitted that 78,000 people had shared identity card numbers in the register and asked those affected to check with their records.
IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati told the Nation that the register will not be a hindrance to the August 8 election.
“Having a credible register is a process. We have just finalised the mass voter registration drive except for the diaspora and prisons.
‘‘The next step is to upload the data to our central database, carry out a matching exercise to ensure that only one voter exists per unique record, prepare the draft register and invite Kenyans to verify their details. This will go on until we publish the register of voters 30 days before the elections. We shall stand by our register,” said Mr Chebukati.
US Ambassador Robert Godec has said that Washington will offer the IEBC technical support to clean up the voters’ register.
However, details obtained by the Nation point to the monumental task ahead for the commission. In extracts from various registration stations across the country, some voters have neither the first name nor the surname. Instead, the surnames are just numbers.
UNIQUE IDENTITY NUMBER
For instance, the surname name of a person with ID number 2767161 is 209913432 while the first name is similar with the ID number. The voter’s unique identity number in the Biometric Voter Registration is 2957815 and it indicates the person was born on January 1, 1926.
Another voter with 15960077 as Electronic Voter Identification Device (Evid) number has surname indicated as 214564849 while the first name is 22352068 and date of birth indicated as June 15, 1979.
The unique identification numbers are often assigned to every registered voter to show the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) machine used to register the person.
Among the extracts, some voters’ first name consists of a number and a name. Besides, some entries have numbers in place of names while keying in letters XXX on records from a constituency in Nairobi brings up results purporting to have people registered with the name XXX.
“Some names are just labelled XXX. It is unimaginable that the National Registration Bureau could issue IDs to a person whose name is XXX,” an IEBC official told the Nation. At the same time, there were instances across the country with voters whose ID numbers are just letters. Mr Chebukati said the clean-up will deal with all those issues.
RECORDS HAVE ISSUES
“We know that only one per cent of records have issues. We are working to ensure that we address all real and perceived shortcomings to ensure we have a credible and acceptable register. All the shortcomings in the records that we have constitute one per cent of all the records. That is being fixed as we go along,” Mr Chebukati told the Nation.
Sources at IEBC also indicated that some hard disks were reported to have been stolen in the field while some electronic registration kits allegedly disappeared.
However, the commission chairman denied any such losses.
“We are aware of the kits lost in Mandera East constituency during the mass voter registration,” Mr Chebukati said, adding that “it is important that we speak from a point of information as opposed to being speculative.”
There have also been questions on whether a directive by President Uhuru Kenyatta last month during campaigns for mass voter listing that those with ID waiting cards should be allowed to register was implemented.
However, the directive caused a stir since the proposal was deleted from the Election Laws (Amendment) Act 2016. Mr Chebukati said that IEBC did not allow the use of waiting cards to register as voters.
DELAYS IN UPLOADING DATA
“We have been clear on that from the beginning. In any event, we will be able to detect such during the data processing and, for certain, if there is any such registration, we shall expunge it from the register,” he said. The chairman also brushed aside concerns on delays in uploading data into the main register after the first and second registration processes.
“Well, we are working with data that we have. In many respects, once registration is completed data is loaded on the main database. Data is not stored on the kits.
‘‘In the unlikely event that the laptop crashes before the data is transferred, we have a mechanism of retrieval. In most cases, such data is recovered,” said Mr Chebukati.
Meanwhile, the Election Laws (Amendment) Act 2016 requires IEBC to have a Kenya Integrated Management System that will have all the voters’ data.
However, acquisition of the system is facing delays following procurement disputes. Questions also linger on whether any new technology acquired will be compatible with the 2013 BVR and Evid data since the supplier of the Evids used in 2013 still owns the rights to the software.
‘‘Awarding the system to another supplier would mean that IEBC and the new manufacturer would have to consult the supplier of the system used in 2013.
“That is a technical issue and we have thought through it,” said Mr Chebukati.