'Rejected' votes issue rears its ugly head again

Tuesday August 8 2017

A Presiding Officer counts presidential votes

A Presiding Officer counts presidential votes cast at Central Primary School Polling Station in Moiben Constituency, Uasin Gishu County, on August 8, 2017. Votes counting is ongoing. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By IBRAHIM ORUKO
More by this Author

Rejected votes could once again become a major talking point after initial results of the presidential election placed the figure at 288,909.

Also, out of the 40,833 polling stations, valid votes were 11,201,825, disputed votes stood at 2,034, and objected ones at 1,114.

These figures are from 29,960 out of 40,883 polling stations with a 58.59 per cent turnout.

There are four types of ballot papers when counting begins:

A valid ballot:

It is one that is marked correctly and can be counted.

A rejected vote

It is one that cannot be counted.

The Presiding Officer may reject any ballot paper, which for example: is not an official ballot paper, that is, it bears a serial number which differs from those on the ballot papers in that polling station and the relevant counterfoil; is of a different size than the official IEBC ballot papers.

Rejection objected to ballot

This is the "one that is rejected by the Presiding Officer, but the agents have objected to the rejection".

Such a ballot cannot be included in the basket of valid ballots.

The election manual says that a "party/candidate agent can follow up with the Returning Officer to try and resolve the ballots marked 'rejection objected to'. The decision of the Returning Officer will be final."

A disputed vote

".. is one that the Presiding Officer considers valid but a candidate or an election agent questions.

"The ballot will be taken into consideration for counting."

"The ballot will be taken into consideration for counting. The Returning Officer at the tallying centre can deal with these disputes," the election agent manual says.

PETITION

The high number of rejected votes rekindles the memories of the 2013 election when the number of rejected ballots stood at 330,000 but later reduced to 40,000 after the electronic transmission was discontinued and the manual one adopted.

The issue of the rejected votes in that election was the basis of a heated argument during the presidential petition filed by Cord leader Raila Odinga challenging the election of Mr Uhuru Kenyatta.

BALLOTS

Mr Kenyatta’s TNA party objected to the inclusion of the rejected votes on the final tally, arguing it was a scheme to deny him outright 50+1 per cent first round win.

The Supreme Court led by Chie Justice Willy Mutunga concurred with TNA, ruling that the electoral commission was wrong to include the rejected votes in the final tally.

DEFENCE

The court ruled that rejected ballot papers are invalid and cannot be included in tallying of results.

The court said that neither the Constitution nor the regulations made by the commission had provisions for "rejected votes", though they provide for "rejected ballot papers", "spoilt ballot papers" and "disputed votes".

INVALID

Further, it ruled that spoilt ballot papers are those that are not placed in the ballot box, but are cancelled and replaced where necessary by the Presiding Officer at the polling station.

This, the court said, differs from the rejected votes, which although placed in the ballot box, are subsequently declared invalid on account of certain factors such as fraud, duplicity of marking, among others.

EDUCATION

The number of rejected votes in this year's elections raises concerns on whether civic education was effective.

Since the tallying is ongoing the figure might rise.

In July this year, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission rolled out voter education that sought to teach Kenyans how electronic identification of voters and results transmission will work.