#BALLOT2017: What you should know about voting, counting, results transmission


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IEBC officials set up ballot boxes for Kabete mini-polls in 2015. [Photo/Courtesy]

During the March 4, 2013, election, only 17,000 out of 33,000 polling stations managed to transmit provisional results using the then Electronic Results Transmission and Presentation (RTS) system.

At the end of vote counting in polling stations, Presiding Officers were required to enter the data on the signed results sheets into specially configured mobile phones that transmitted to results centres at the constituency, county and national levels simultaneously.

The system would soon be hit by a technical hitch with nearly half of polling centres countrywide unable to transmit the results electronically. A number of poll officials abandoned the transmission opting to carry copies of signed result sheets to tallying centres.

This year, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is keen on ensuring similar technical hitches do not occur.

The commission’s election training manager, Anne Nderitu, says the new Kenya Integrated Electoral Management System (Kiems) directly procured from Safran Identity and Security (previously Morpho) will ensure smooth transmission of election results from polling stations.

Kiems ensures voter identification and results transmission is integrated with the existing voter registration database.

Voter Identification

Using the Safran’s innovative MorphoTablet™ 2, which was used in the voter verification period, poll clerks will authenticate voters with their fingerprint and a photo as captured during verification before allowing them to vote.

IEBC Commissioner Roselyn Akombe underscores the importance of this technology in achieving a free and fair election on August 8.

“This election is going to be won on voter turnout, that’s why identification has to work,” she says.

In the event that voter’s details are not retrievable from the Kiems through biometric means due to various reasons including distorted fingerprints, IEBC has put in place complementary measures embedded in the system.

Complementary Measures

The first option for the clerk number 2 at the polling station after the Presiding Officer gets alerted, is to run an alphanumeric search of the individual voter details (ID No. and name) in the Kiems’ complimentary voter identification register.

If the alphanumeric search fails, the clerk will then scan the barcode on the back of the voter’s ID card using scanning software installed in the Kiems.

A list of all voters identified through the complimentary voter identification register is recorded in Form 2A. Unfortunately, any voter whose details aren’t found in the Kiems using these three methods cannot be allowed to vote.

“We are not allowing any voting outside the Kiems,” Nderitu asserts.

Ballot Stuffing

To guard against previous claims of irregularities like ballot box stuffing, the Kiems is programmed to transmit every three hours the list of voters identified to IEBC main servers. The Presiding Officer also records and transmits the number of ballot papers issued at regular intervals throughout the day which should eventually tally, in addition to filling the polling station diary.

“In case a voter attempts to vote twice, on placing his fingerprints, the Kiems kit will sound a loud alarm alerting poll officials to take the necessary action,” IEBC election training manager Anne Nderitu.

Such an individual will be arrested and face prosecution in accordance with the Election Laws (Amendment) Act 2017.

Power Problems and Kiems failure

On addressing power challenges, the IEBC assures that the Kiems kit comes equipped with 24 hours of power which the commission hopes will be more than enough to ensure every voter who checks into a polling station is identified biometrically.

“The MorphoTablet™ 2 comes with a battery that lasts for 8 hours together with two other chargeable backup batteries of similar capacity, giving a total of 24 hours,” Nderitu says.

In the event the Kiems kit at a particular polling station malfunctions, Nderitu says no data already captured is lost since it writes to a central server and all kits are networked.

“A new Kiems kit will be provided to the affected polling station in case of collapse. It will have up-to-date information and voter identification can resume as soon as it arrives,” she affirms.

Delays

On delays in opening and closing of polling stations that saw voters in some areas during the 2013 election queue up to as late as 3 am, IEBC says it has revised guidelines to ensure this is averted.

“In 2013, only 0.02% of polling stations didn’t open in time. This was contributed by among other things, voters queuing in the wrong streams and a large size of polling station streams,” Nderitu observes.

Consequently, the Commission has eliminated polling streams and introduced what will be known as polling centres where a polling centre could have multiple polling stations (typically in classrooms or tents) depending on total registered voters.

“For example, one of the largest polling centres that we have is Moi Avenue Primary School which has about 10,000 registered voters. Each polling station therein is capped at 700 voters as opposed to 1,000 in 2013,” IEBC election training manager says.

In this arrangement, the possibility of a voter standing in the wrong queue is eliminated. The average time spent on the queue is also reduced.

Counting

Once voting is over, poll clerks are allowed a 15-minute break before counting of votes begins.

“We insist all polling stations must be open by 6 am and closed at 5 pm. However, time lost must be factored in. for example, if a polling station opens at 6:30 am, then it will close at 5:30 pm,”

In addition, any voters on the queue at the designated closing time will be allowed to vote, after which counting will begin. A voter who comes after the designated voting time will be turned away.

Once the presiding officer declares the polling station closed, it turns into a counting station.

Counting follows the order of Presidential, Governor, Senator, MCA, MP and finally Woman Rep (similar to how the ballot boxes are arranged for voting).

The following classification of votes is applied:

Valid vote – where only one mark is correctly placed, clearly identifying the voter’s preferred candidate.

Rejected votes – a ballot which ambiguously reflects the intentions of the voter and the Presiding Officer is unable to determine the voter’s intention e.g. marking more than one candidate or a blank vote.

Stray vote – a ballot that is placed in the wrong ballot box. This vote is not counted for any candidate.

Disputed vote – If a dispute arises as to the validity of a ballot, it is referred to Presiding Officer, whose decision is final. In this case, the vote is counted for the relevant candidate.

Rejection objected to vote – This is a ballot which the Presiding Officer has rejected but a party agent objects to the rejection. This vote is not counted for any candidate.

Spoilt votes – If a voter makes a mistake while completing a ballot or handles the ballot in such a manner that it is ruined beyond use e.g. soaking in water, it may be possible to cancel and start the voting process again. The spoilt ballots are returned and clerks issue new ones. The spoilt ballot is not placed in the ballot box.

The tally of the above is recorded in the respective forms filled by the Presiding Officer. They are put in tamper-proof envelopes and transported to the constituency tallying centre together with counterfoils and ballot boxes.

Transmission

Once votes for counted, respective forms are filled in the presence of party agents who also sign alongside poll officials. Transmission only begins after the ballots for each election are packaged in their respective tamper-proof envelopes.

After results are counted and the Presiding Officer and agents have signed the respective forms (34a-39a) the presiding officer will announce the results, paste them at the door of the polling station and then transmission follows.

The numerical tally is entered into the Kiems in presence of party agents. The respective form (e.g Form 34A for the presidential election) is then scanned into Electronic Document Management System (EDMS) after which transmission is possible.

An important security feature in the Kiems that guards against previous claims of ballot stuffing, ensures votes transmitted mirror information recorded by the Kiems throughout the day.

“If the figures entered show a voter turnout higher than what was recorded, Kiems won’t transmit. The same applies for figures higher than the number of registered voters,” Nderitu explains.

Additionally, the Kiems will not allow the Presiding Officer to transmit the results if the copy of the signed results isn’t scanned.

Presidential election

Presidential results announced at the polling station level will be instantly posted online for all to see. The Returning Officer transfers information contained in Form 34As to Form 36A at the constituency level and after verification by all party agents, Form 36A is scanned into the EDMS and received at the National Tallying Centre.

The national returning officer, IEBC Chairperson Wafula Chebukati having been stripped off powers to change results transmitted, will only add results from the 290 constituencies, compute the percent vote count of each candidate in each county and the 50% plus 1 threshold.

He will then declare the presidential results and deliver written notifications to the Chief Justice and the incumbent president.

Others

The MP and MCA elections will be declared at the constituency level by the Returning Officer while the County Governor, Senator and Woman Rep elections will be declared by the County Retuning Officer at the county level.

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Story By Eric Ndubi
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